Seward battles into men’s NJCAA semifinals

The game came down to toughness.

Both Seward County coach Bryan Zollinger and Columbia State, Tenn., coach Jay Joyner agreed that was the deciding factor in Seward’s 52-45 victory in an NJCAA Tournament quarterfinal Thursday.

“Going into the game we knew it was going to be about toughness, and tonight we just didn’t outlast their toughness, that’s what it came down to, nothing more, nothing less,” Joyner said. “Tough night shooting, tough night on the glass, and the tougher team won tonight.”

Seward took an 11-point lead after a 16-5 run in the first nine minutes of the game. It didn’t take long for Columbia State to cut that Seward lead, and by halftime the score was tied at 25.

When Columbia State took its first lead early in the second half, it was the first of six lead changes.

“They were just quick guards, and every time we got that fast break they took the ball, then we took the ball, and they took the ball,” Seward’s Deverell Biggs said. “After that, coach just said ‘buckle down and take care of the ball,’ and we did that, not the whole game, but the last couple of minutes.”

Seward began to pull away with 6:40 left in the game, after a layup from Kaheem Ransom gave the Saints a six-point lead. Despite two long three-pointers for Columbia State, Seward’s persistence in the final minutes led it to the win.

“That’s what we’re always telling our guys, you’ve got to dig in, and you’ve got to create that one extra opportunity,” Zollinger said. “At the end of the day if you are a scrappy defensive team, you have a chance to win. Even on a bad offensive night, you better be able to play defense, and that’s something that this team has proven.”

Seward’s victory put the Saints in tonight’s semifinals.

“We had to find a way to survive, it was ugly,” Zollinger said. “But at the end of the day we’re in the final four in the country, and we’re proud to represent our school and the state of Kansas.”

SEWARD (30-6): Pearson 0-1 0-0 0, Wade 1-2 1-2 3, Boardingham 2-3 6-9 10, Jenkins 0-5 0-0 0, Ransom 1-2 0-0 2, Starks 3-6 3-7 9, Hollinger 3-9 5-6 12, Biggs 4-13 3-6 12, Avila 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 16-44 18-30 52.

COLUMBIA STATE (22-7): James 3-9 1-2 7, Carter 2-7 2-2 8, Magee 2-9 1-3 5, Gude 1-7 0-0 2, Prado 0-0 0-0 0, Akinkugbe 0-3 0-0 0, Harmon 6-14 1-2 15, Wray 0-0 0-0 0, Little 0-1 0-0 0, Jennings 3-11 0-2 8, Perry 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-62 5-11 45.

Halftime—Seward 25, Columbia State 25. Three-pointers—Seward 2-9 (Hollinger 1-1, Biggs 1-3, Pearson 0-1, Jenkins 0-2, Starks 0-2), Columbia State 6-23 (Carter 2-4, Harmon 2-6, Jennings 2-7, Little 0-1, Gude 0-5). Rebounds—Seward 50 (Hollinger 11), Columbia 36 (Jennings 7). Assists—Seward 8 (Biggs 3), Columbia 7 (Magee 3). Total Fouls—Seward 14, Columbia 22.