The third time was not the charm as the Barton Community College women's basketball team's third chance to knock off Seward County Community College came up short again as the 2nd ranked Saints held on for a 63-58 victory in the semifinals of the Region VI Tournament Monday afternoon at Park City's Hartman Arena.
The loss ends a three-game win streak for the Cougars, ending Barton's season at 23-10 and the most wins since the 2009 season. Seward County's 24th straight win on the season puts the Saints in Wednesday's 5:00 p.m. Region VI title game against Butler Community College (27-4) who knocked off No. 8 Hutchinson Community College in a 61-60 come-from-behind thriller.
The Region's top shooting three-point team could never get untracked against a quick and athletic Seward County squad, coming up empty from behind the arc for the first time of the thirty-three game season, as Barton was just 35.8% overall from the field. The Cougars owned the glass by a twenty-one rebound margin but had twelve more giveaways than the Saints leading to an eighteen point difference coming off of turnovers.
The Cougars began the night attacking the Saints and controlling the opening six minutes resulting in an 11-5 advantage. The Saints' 7-0 run reversed the score leader but a pair of Taylor Regan free throws put Barton back on top 13-12 after the first frame.
The teams battled back and forth in the second with the Saints on top by one for most of the frame, outscoring the Cougars by four in the quarter to lead 34-31 at the break.
Committing twelve first half turnovers, the Cougars shored up the free giveaways in the third but couldn't buy a basket in connecting on just three of twenty-one field goal attempts for a paltry 14%. Seward County wasn't much better in making just two more field goals on 27.8% shooting but the Saints widened their lead by seven for a ten point margin to the final quarter.
Led into the season by a group of nine sophomores, the ones on the court began to step up as Barton methodically climbed back into the contest. A pair of Jaylin Stapleton free throws cut it to eight with 5:28 to play and eighty seconds later Natasha Dolinsky's drive to the hole and Stapleton's steal and layup cut the margin to six with 4:01 on the clock.
Fatou Ndao's pair of charity tosses and another Dolinsky drive to the hole from a Stapleton dime cut the deficit to four with 2:42 to play. Barton then had two extra opportunities to cut into the margin even more but the Cougars answered the Saints' turnovers with costly turnovers of their own.
The Saints pushed it back to six on two free throws with Irene Chukwudi's floating hook shot slicing the margin back to four at the 1:00 minute mark.
Working twenty seconds off the clock, Seward County worked the back door magic for a layup to again push the lead to six but Stapleton's old-fashioned three point play drew Barton to within three with twenty seconds left.
The Saints made it a two point possession on a 1-of-2 trip to the line but the Cougars committed another costly turnover to seal the game as another 1-of-2 trip to the line gave Seward County the final five point win.
Four Cougars playing their final game in a Barton uniform headlined the scoring leaders with Stapleton scoring fourteen points and dishing out a team high four assists; Regan recording her 14th double-double of the season in scoring fourteen and pulling down fifteen rebounds; Chukwudi closing out her career with her second straight double-double in tallying fourteen points and eleven rebounds, to go along with, a career high six blocks; and Ndao flirting with a double in finishing with eight points and seven rebounds.
Carla Covane led just three Saints in double figures but put up a double-double night of twenty-one points and twelve rebounds. Silvia Veloso added fifteen with Kalen Green coming off the bench to pop in a trio of three-pointers leading to a twelve point game.