By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
If the Saints are looking for answers to their early-season struggles, don’t ask for more points from Niem Stevenson.
The freshman from Dallas scored 33 points and 11 rebounds, but Seward could not hold a halftime lead over the Northeastern Plainsmen and fell 91-85 at the Holiday Classic in Scottsbluff, Neb.
Seward continued to have foul issues. Quentin Purtue and Secan Johnson both fouled out, and Seward gave the Plainsmen 44 free throw opportunities, and Northeastern made 28 of them.
Seward shot 31 free throws and made 21.
Seward struggled at the perimeter in the second half, missing all seven three-point shots while Northeastern made three of their six attempts.
Seward appeared to be poised for the upset. The Saints shots 54 percent in the first half while holding Northeastern to 37 percent.
The Saints enjoyed a 51-44 halftime advantage.
But Seward’s ability to make shots disappeared in the second half, and the Saints dropped to 31 percent in the final 20 minutes.
Northeastern heated up and erased the deficit by shooting 48 percent in the second half.
Seward had chances at the line to pull the upset, but the Saints missed 11 free throws in the second half after turning in a perfect nine-for-nine performance in the first half.
Seward had four scorers in double digits. Joining Stevenson (33) was Malcolm Hill-Bey with 14, Johnson scored 13, and Brian Bridgeforth had 12.
The loss dropped Seward to 4-5 on the season, an unfamiliar place for a Brian Zollinger-coached team.
Seward had second-half leads in all five losses.
Seward faced the Western Nebraska Cougars late Saturday to wrap up the Scottsbluff classic and will return to the Greenhouse Friday for the Pizza Hut Classic.
Seward will face Sunrise Academy Friday and Kingdom Prep Saturday.