It was a good old fashion Jayhawk West heavyweight fight – a good atmosphere in a loud building that came down to the wire.
Unfortunately for the visiting Barton Community College men’s basketball team it was the 4th-ranked Grizzlies of Butler Community College that came away with the win.
Barton just missed out handing Butler its first loss of the year and moving into first place alone in the Jayhawk West. Instead it is Butler which now stands alone in first following a 73-71 win at the Power Plant.
“I was happy with how went in there and competed,” Coach Craig Fletchall said. “We knew it was going to be tough to go in there and beat them but we had our chances. We made some silly mistakes down the stretch.”
Butler remains the only unbeaten in the West with a 3-0 conference mark and a 17-0 overall mark. The Cougars are tied for second at 2-1 in the West and 14-3 overall.
It was not looking like a game that was going to come down to the wire when Butler opened the second half on a 17-3 run. At that point the Grizzlies found themselves in control of the contest with a 55-37 lead with 14 minutes to play.
Leading by 18 points with 14 minutes left on its home floor, the unbeaten and 4th ranked team in the country had to feel good about its chances of coasting to another win.
That, however, would not be the case.
The Cougars burst back into the contest with a 10-1 run a few minutes later. Trailing 58-42 Khalil Gracey started the run by hitting a jumper with 10:38 to play. After a Butler free throw Jordan Windholz hit a 3-pointer and Ahmad Walker grabbed on an offensive rebound, hit the putback and the ensuing free throw to make it 59-50 with 9:48 play.
Suddenly in less than one minute the Cougars turned a 16-point lead into a 9-point game. Barton had chances to whittle it even closer and finally did on another Walker layup following a steal by Gracey to cut it to 59-52 and it was a game again.
“We kept battling and then we had that quick run and it was a ball game again,” Coach Fletchall said. “That gave our kids some energy.”
The Cougars put together another run with seven minutes left. Trailing 65-56 Jalin Barnes started the run with a layup at the 6:15 mark to kick start a 6-0 run to cut it to 65-62. Following a Kyle Steward basket for Butler to push the lead back to five the Cougars made a big push.
Walker cut it to 67-64 with a pair of free throws at the 4-minute mark and Gracey tied it at 67-all with a 3-pointer the next Barton possession. The Cougars finally got the lead on a Kenny Enoch steal and Barnes layup with three minutes to play – leading 69-67.
Perhaps the biggest shot of the game came just 20 later when Steward knocked down a 3-pointer to give the lead back to Butler. Butler wouldn’t trail again.
Barton got a final look at a three to tie game late but Enoch’s shot missed. In the game’s final second Barnes was fouled with Barton down three. He hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second but the Cougars just missed out on running down the ball and getting off a shot to tie the game.
Barnes led Barton with 19 points followed by 18 from Walker. Four different Cougars scored double figures with Enoch adding 14 and Gracey 13. Walker also grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out seven assists in another good game for the sophomore guard.
Steward scored 20 for Butler to lead all scorers followed by Lamar Wofford with 15.