It almost happened again. The Barton Community College men’s basketball team entered the NJCAA Top 25 for the second time this year Tuesday. The last time the Cougars did that they followed it up with a pair of losses.
The Cougars, ranked No .21, avoided that same fate Wednesday night at the Barton Gym – but just barely. Barton escaped with a 75-73 win over Colby – the last place team in the conference.
“We are happy to win,” Barton coach Craig Fletchall said. “We got big games from the sophomores. They stepped up big for us and we needed them tonight.
“Colby is playing a lot better recently. They led at Hutch most the way their last game and missed some free throws down the stretch or they would have won that game.”
The win improved Barton (23-5) to 11-3 in the Jayhawk West with two games to play. The Cougars are still a game out of first but are now two games clear of Hutchinson, a team Barton holds tiebreakers with, guaranteeing them at least second place in the West. Barton could still get that top seed but it would take two wins and a Butler loss.
Colby is 12-17 overall and 3-12 in the West.
The slim shot at the conference title all but went out the door Wednesday. The contest saw an amazing 20 lead changes to go with nine ties. The Cougars biggest lead of the night was six points while Colby led by no more than three.
In the end it was a barrage of the 3-pointers by sophomore guard Kenny Enoch that provided the difference.
With the game tied at 63-all Enoch hit a 3-pointer right wing to give Barton a 3-point lead with four minutes to play. On the next trip down the court Enoch buried another trey in front of the Barton bench to make it 69-63 and give the Cougars their biggest lead of the game with 3:38 to play.
Following a 3-point play by Colby Enoch made three trips and three treys with his third straight and a 72-66 lead with 3:06 to play.
“He just has to get that first one to go in then he can get hot,” Coach Fletchall said of Enoch. “Everyone on the bench knew that second one was going in when he shot it.
“He knows his role with us. He knows Ahmad and Jalin get a lot of the shots but he is always ready and knows he will get his shots.”
But Colby wouldn’t go away. The Trojans scored the next four points to cut it to 72-70 with 1:54 left. The Trojans got it to one on an Ahmed Ismail jumper following a 1-of-2 effort at the free throw line by Jalin Barnes.
Colby had two shots to tie the game after Barnes went 1-of-2 again at the charity stripe. The Cougars got a big block from Eddie Hunt off an inbounds play by the Trojans with 35 seconds to play. Hunt blocked the shot – basically grabbing the ball out of the hands of the shooter on the way up.
The Trojans got another shot to tie the game after Ahmad Walker missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but Joey Meyer’s jumper missed and Enoch was fouled.
Enoch failed to put the game out of reach, hitting 1-of-2 free throws, giving the Trojans one more crack it. A game-tying 3-point shot by Khyree Wooten missed however the ball went out off the Cougars.
Following a time out Barton fouled Starr before the Trojans could shot another 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds to play. Starr made the first and missed the second. In the scramble for the rebound the clock ran out and Barton had themselves another thrilling home win.
Walker, a 6-4 sophomore guard, had a huge night for the Cougars with 24 points, 10 assist and nine rebounds – all team highs. Enoch scored 15 for the Cougars and Barnes added 14.
Meyer led four Trojans in double figures with 20 while Bruce Watkins added 17 off the bench.
Saturday will go a long way in deciding the top spot in the West as Barton travels to Pratt and Butler heads to Seward. Both Pratt and Seward will provide stiff road competition for the two West leaders. Both teams are 7-7 in the West and in a battle for that final home playoff spot from the West.
“Now it’s on to Saturday.” Coach Fletchall said. “Pratt is a good team. It we don’t’ get back better in transition defense they are going to be knocking down wide open threes. They are the defending region champion. It won’t be easy.”