There is never an easy way to lose a game that ends your season. Friday night in Koch Arena in Wichita, the Seward County Saints might have suffered the most stinging loss that they possibly could have. After a furious late game comeback which saw Seward tie the game with 3 seconds left, upstart Pratt launched a halfcourt prayer as time expired and unbelievably, the shot found its mark, swishing through the hoop in front of the Beaver fans to send Koch Arena into a frenzy and the Saints fans home still trying to figure out just how it happened. Pratt won the game 71-68, ending the Saints season in the semifinal round of the tournament while the Beavers will look to continue their magical run on Saturday as they take on Hutchinson in the championship game of the tournament.
After squeaking by Neosho County one night earlier, Seward County got off to another slow start Friday night in the Region VI Tournament Semifinals against Pratt, going scoreless through the first 4:15 of the game when Evan Allen made a pair of free throws to cut the early Beaver lead to 5-2. A short time later, Allen also picked up the Saints first field goal of the game and just like that, Pratt's lead was down to just one. Later on a bucket from Quentin Purtue and a steal and score from Niem Stevenson put the Saints in business, up 8-6 with 13:10 to go in the half. Pratt responded with four straight and that is where we went into the media timeout, with the Beavers in front by two, 14-12. The Saints were really struggling to score and while they were getting Pratt to miss, Seward wasn't able to clear the glass and the Beavers were able to get second chance opportunity after second chance opportunity to stay in front. The Saints found themselves down by four when a good drive and score from Secean Johnson and a three from Purtue quickly reversed their fortunes to put them up 21-20. However, Pratt closed the half on a 6-0 run over the final 3:05 to turn the tables on the Saints and take a 26-21 lead into the break.
The two teams combined to shoot just 32% in the half, Seward at 33%, Pratt just a tick lower at 31%. Pratt dominated the glass, outrebounding Seward 31-11 in the half including 14 first half offensive boards. No Seward player had more than 5 first half points as Purtue managed that with three other players scoring 4 in the period.
The pace picked up early in the second half to the Saints favor. A quick three by Stevenson and a pair of free throws from Johnson had Seward back to within two at 28-26. Stevenson scored again on a twisting reverse layup to tie the game at 28, but Pratt caught fire at that point, reigning in threes with ease, going back in front by six, 39-33 on three longballs in just a 1:25 stretch. Pratt continued to make threes look like free throws, starting the half hitting 6 of their first 9 as they opened their lead up to 45-37 with 14:02 to go. Stevenson tried to match Pratt blow by blow and a pair of threes from him got the Saints back close and another finish by the freshman at the rim got Seward to within two at 49-47 midway through the half. Just when it looked like Seward was getting back into it, the Beavers went right back to the three point line, going on a 6-0 run to take their largest lead of game to that point at 55-47 with 8:06 left. It continued to look like it was going to be the Beavers night as they extended upon that lead to 61-49 with 5:28 remaining, but then here came the Saints. A technical foul on Pratt for hanging on the rim after a dunk, followed by a quick move to the basket by Allen for a hoop got Seward to within six and moments later threes from Malcolm Hill-Bey and Purtue drew Seward to within three at 65-62 with 2:02 to go. Seward looked like they were in trouble as Pratt's lead remained three and they were going to the free throw line with under a minute left, but slowly the Saints used free throws to get to within one and a Pratt turnover gave Seward the ball with a chance to win it as time wound down. Stevenson took the ball and drove to the basket for Seward as the game clock waned. Stevenson was fouled with 3.1 seconds left and went to the free throw line where the predominantly Pratt crowd played a part in a miss on the front end of the two shot foul. With the game in the balance, Stevenson had ice in his veins, knocking down the foul shot to tie the game at 68. Pratt got the ball in clean on the inbounds and the Saints did a good job of staying with the Beaver ball handler, but as the clock would down to triple zeroes, Pratt's Javis Flynn got a shot off from half court and to the udder disbelief of the few Seward faithful in the building, the shot found its mark, easing its way through the hoop to win the game 71-68 and send the Pratt fans into a frenzy. As the Saints sat on the floor in disbelief, Pratt fans stormed the court and just like that, Seward's ride in the tournament was over.
Seward shot 62% in the second half to finish the game at 47% overall while Pratt managed just 38% shooting, but outrebounded the Saints 45-25 in the game including 16 offensive rebounds which turned into 17 second chance points. Including the buzzer beater, Pratt shot 67% in the second half from three, finishing the game at 47% from beyond the arc. Stevenson led all scorers with 24 points while Hill-Bey added 14 and Allen pitched in 13 off the Seward bench.
The Saints season ends abruptly at 23-10 overall while Pratt advances to their first Region VI Championship game since the 2005 season with a 21-12 record and will take on Hutchinson for the third time this season with a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament on the line.