Seward County outscored Cowley in the second half by 10 points, but that doesn’t begin to illustrate the dominance of the Saints – especially in the second half Tuesday night.
Seward used the free-throw line to inch ahead in the first half, then found its shooting touch after halftime and rolled past Cowley 62-48 for the Region VI championship at Hartman Arena.
The triumph helps soothe Seward’s 73-69 loss to Coffeyville in the title game a year ago and advances the Saints to the NJCAA Tournament next week in Hutchinson.
Southeast High product Kaheem Ransom got a nudge from his teammates, and responded with a double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds for Seward.
He had some help from tournament most valuable player Deverell Biggs, who contributed 20 points in the winning effort.
But Biggs contributed more than that.
“Kaheem wasn’t having a good tournament (before Tuesday),” Biggs said, “and we just said, ‘We need you.’ And he showed it tonight. He’s a good player. Without him, our team would be a lot different.”
Ransom said he had something to prove.
“I just wanted to come out aggressive,” he said. “The past couple of games I couldn’t get it going, and I was a little frustrated. ‘Coach Z’ (Bryan Zollinger) just told me to come out and play my game, be aggressive, and the shots were going to fall for me.”
Ransom said he didn’t realize his rebounding total was so high.
“It’s icing on the cake,” he said. “I’ll take it.”
Looking at the final score, it nearly seems hard to believe that Seward hit just eight of 28 shots in the first half (28.6 percent). Cowley hit 45.5 percent of its shots but trailed at the half because Seward hit 9 of 10 free throws.
The second half, however, was another matter entirely.
Seward frequently got home-run balls for breakaway layups, helping to quickly extend its advantage.
“Coach told us to get defensive stops and scores, and the lead would increase,” Ransom said.
Cowley cooled off, and Ransom and the Saints caught fire, hitting 46.4 percent and pulling away to as much as a 20-point lead, 62-42, with 1:47 to play.
“I told them that we needed to make plays,” Zollinger said. “At some point, we’re going to find an offensive rhythm. If we keep playing defense, we’ll find an offensive rhythm.”
The Tigers then began to panic, throwing up low-percentage shots and misfiring, and it was merely a matter of the clock running out.
Halftime—Seward 27, Cowley 23. Three-point shooting—Seward 3-13 (Ransom 2-6, Starks 1-2, Hollinger 0-2, Biggs 0-2, Jenkins 0-1), Cowley 2-9 (Milliken 1-2, Bailey 1-1, Williams 0-2, Nelson 0-1, Belin 0-1, Evans 0-1, Brown 0-1). Rebounds—Seward 39 (Ransom 12), Cowley 30 (Brown 9). Assists—Seward 7 (Biggs 4), Cowley 11 (Brown 4). Total fouls—Seward 14, Cowley 16. Fouled out—None.