EARL WATT • Leader & Times
Struggling against the 2-3 zone and unable to get stops early in the second half, the Seward County Saints trailed Cloud County 48-33 with 12 minutes to play in the game before a tenacious defense sparked by a huge block on an attempted dunk led to a furious defensive effort that sparked a 17-0 run in a 62-56 come-from-behind win for the Saints.
After giving up 41 points in the first half, the Seward defense allowed seven points in the first eight minutes of the second half but only scored six points of their own.
Cloud then had an apparent breakaway for a dunk, but Kevon Cooper went up to contest the shot and rejected the jam without fouling.
Seward trailed 48-33 when Cooper made that play, and for the next eight minutes the Saints went on a 17-0 run to take a 50-48 lead.
The Seward defense continued to put the clamps on the Thunderbirds in the second half and only allowed four baskets on 25 attempts for 16 percent shooting for Cloud in the second half.
The Saints shot 41 percent in the second half and started to challenge the 2-3 zone which resulted in fouls on Cloud and 24 second half free throw attempts for the Saints after only nine in the first half.
Seward outscored Cloud 35-15 in the second half for the come-from-behind win.
“We had a lot of selfishness against the 2-3,” Seward coach Rylee Hernandez said. “We could get a shot off so we took one, and we didn’t need it. We needed to get the right shot and put pressure on the rim. We got that in the second half, and it got us to the free throw line. That is a level of discipline and selflessness that showed up.”
Malachi McReed came off the bench to lead the Saint with 15 points, and Taye Donald had 13.