It was going to end eventually. Saturday in Chanute happened to be eventually.
The unbeaten run to start the Jayhawk Conference season stopped at 5-0 with a 66-63 loss to Neosho County. Despite the loss the Cougars are still alone atop the Jayhawk Conference standings.
The Cougars are 5-1 in the conference – one game better in the loss column that three teams. Hutchinson and Neosho are both 5-2 while Pratt is currently 4-2. Barton is 13-4 overall.
Barton is still alone at the top thanks largely to a 0-2 week by Hutchinson. Both teams entered the week unbeaten in the conference and two games up in the loss column on the rest of the conference. While Barton went 1-1, Hutchinson lost a 3 OT thriller at the Sports Arena to Cowley Wednesday then dropped a 79-77 decision to Butler at the Power Plant in El Dorado Saturday.
Neosho, meanwhile, stayed hot with its win. It was the fourth straight in the conference after a 1-2 start. Neosho had won five straight overall and is 13-3 on the season.
“We didn’t play well,” Coach Craig Fletchall said. “I think we might have gotten a little too full of ourselves, being at the top of the conference. We got a break and still lead the conference. We get a second chance. Let’s see how we respond this time.”
Barton had its chances to still be unbeaten in the conference at Chanute. The game proved to be one of runs with Neosho getting the final one.
The Cougars went on one of those runs with a 9-0 flurry to close out the opening half and take a 31-28 lead to the locker room. That came on the heels of a 12-0 run for Neosho.
The next run would go the way of the Panthers. Neosho would go on an 11-3 run early the second half to take a 46-40 advantage. Barton would answer with a 10-2 run for a 54-50 lead with 7:34 left but Neosho would battle back to tie it at 54-all.
The teams traded the lead and Barton pushed it to 62-59 on the heels of two free throws by Dequandre Dentmond with 3:07 play. Keith Mack hit 1-of-2 at the charity stripe with 2:09 left to keep Barton up 63-61. It would be the final points of the game for the Cougars.
Barton had a chance to go up four by a turnover gave the ball back to Neosho. The Panthers evened the game at 63-all with a bucket late in the shot clock with just more than one minute to play.
Derek Dorn, Barton’s leading scorer, had a good look at a three late in Barton’s shot clock but missed. Neosho’s Marc Moon got the outlet and drove all the way to the basket, where he was foul on a layup attempt. Moon was injured on the play and the Cougars selected Rashon Griggs, a 38 percent free throw shooter, to take the shots. Griggs missed the first but made the second to give Neosho a 64-63 lead.
With one last chance to win, Dorn drove the lane in an effort to give Barton a lead, but his shot was batted out of bounds. Barton retained possession and Keith Mack got an open look from the left corner for the win, but the ball hit the front rim. Neosho rebounded and was fouled with just 1.2 seconds left. Tyson Downing hit both free throws for the final margin of victory.
“We didn’t do the things we needed to do to win on the road in this conference,” Coach Fletchall said. “We give them three chances when we are up three and they finally score. We have a chance to go up four with less than two minutes left and turn the ball over.
“We defend hard until late the shot clock then let them penetrate and get a layup. After we miss, we don’t get back on defense and foul their guy on a layup. All that is in the last three minutes. You can’t do that and win against a good team on the road in the Jayhawk.”
Jordan Windholz did get an unsuccessful, guarded half-court shot off at the buzzer.
In the end it was shooting woes that cost the Cougars. Barton shot just 32 percent from the floor. Made just 2-of-15 3-pointers and missed 10 free throws (23-33).
Dentmond led Barton with 16 points, hitting 10-of-10 free throws. The freshman from Michigan also grabbed eight rebounds. Maryland freshman Anthony Smith, added 14 points while another freshman, Ezekiel Charles finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Moon led all scorers with 19 points.
The Cougars will get that second chance to respond as the Jayhawk leader Wednesday when Garden City comes to the Barton Gym. Garden City is 3-4 in the Jayhawk and 11-7 overall. The Broncbusters have struggled since returning from the break, going 0-3 in January.
Tip will be at 7:30 p.m.