By ROY ALLEN
Seward assistant athletic director
For fans who stuck around for the opening night of Seward County basketball Friday, they got their money’s worth.
Both the Lady Saints and Saints took tie games into the final minutes of their contests with the Seward women coming out on top 75-72, and the Seward men falling in a shocker,71-68.
In a rematch of the 2002 NJCAA National Championship Game, the Lady Saints took on Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in their 2013-2014 opener.
Following an emotional moment of silence for longtime supporter Charles Brownlee, the Lady Saints got off to a good start.
The Lady Saints clung to an 18-17 lead midway through the first half, and took a 38-34 advantage into the locker rooms.
The Lady Saints remained on top 47-45 with 13:30 left in the game.
As the clock began to wind down, Seward, who dressed just eight players for the game, started to look fatigued as they trailed for the first time in the half, 65-62 with 4:48 remaining.
A pair of free throws got Seward to within one, and a drive and score by freshman Brianna Scott ignited the Greenhouse crowd and put the Lady Saints back in front 69-68 with 2:47 left.
The score was deadlocked at 71-71 with under a minute to go until Seward cashed in a pair of free throws.
Needing a defensive stop, Seward came up huge as Fabiana Monte picked up a steal at half court and Alana Simon finished a wide open layup to put the gals in green in front 75-72 with just 17 seconds left.
The Lady Norse got a look at a three on their final possession, but they couldn’t knock down their 11th three of the night, and the Lady Saints held on to win 75-72.
Shanise Brooks led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds. Monte chipped in 16, and dished out a game-high 5 assists.
The Lady Saints will be back at it 6 p.m. Saturday night as they take on a Murray State squad that trounced fellow Jayhawk West foe Garden City 71-43 in the early game Friday.
In the late game, the Saints took on the veteran Southern Colorado Kings.
Seward had their largest lead of the night at 25-19 with 4:28 left in the half.
The Kings closed the final 4:30 on a 16-5 run to erase the Saints lead, and give themselves a 35-30 advantage at the break.
A 7-0 run to start the second half, including a three from Kevin Smith, put the Saints back in front 37-35 with 16:26 remaining.
Seward looked like they were starting to wear down the Kings, as they extended their lead to 49-41 with under 10 minutes to go.
Southern Colorado crept back into it by forcing Seward into a pair of turnovers, and cut the Saints lead to 55-54 with 5:27 to go.
Seward was able to grab a 68-66 lead with under a minute to go, but Darius Pope nailed a three from the wing with 9 seconds remaining to put the Kings in front 69-68.
After a foul and two free throws by the Kings, the score moved to 71-68.
A last ditch effort to tie it from Malcolm Hill-Bey at the buzzer clanged off the backboard as the Saints went down by the final of 71-68.
Niem Stevenson turned in a solid effort, scoring a game high 27 and pulling down 7 boards in his Seward County debut.
Smith was the only other Saint in double figures as he finished with 14 points.
Seward falls to the Kings for the second time in the past three seasons. They’ll look to rebound Saturday, in an even stiffer test against Northwest Kansas Tech.
The Saints and ‘Stangs will tip off at 8 p.m. in the Greenhouse with free tickets still available, courtesy of buyout sponsor Pepsi at Billy’s, Pizza Hut, First National Bank, and Hutch’s.