Barton Community College’s men’s basketball team is taking on a schedule during the next week that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant adhere to.
“It’s like an NBA schedule,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said. “We’ve got four games in seven days — two on the road and two at home. That’s why I felt it was imperative that we go to that tournament in Chanute (Neosho County’s Sonic Shootout, which was held Tuesday and Wednesday).”
The Cougars, ranked No. 9 in the latest NJCAA Division I poll, won their first 12 games in December, and then they edged Missouri State University-West Plains, 84-82, on Tuesday afternoon in Chanute to improve to 13-0. On Wednesday evening, Barton lost for the first time, as Paris (Texas) Junior College outlasted the Cougars 78-75 in overtime.
On Saturday night, Barton (13-1) travels to Liberal to play Seward (9-5) in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division opener. The women’s game is set to tip off at 6 p.m., followed by the men’s game at 8. Barton returns home to play its first game on the new LT & Sheila Fleske Court, taking on Dodge City on Monday night at Kirkman Activity Center, with the women’s game starting at 5:30.
After Barton travels to Garden City this coming Wednesday night, it returns home to face Butler a week from Saturday.
“We wanted to get a little game rust off,” said Fletchall, alluding to the New Year’s tournament at Neosho. “On the flip side, Seward played in a tournament in Texas over the holidays, too.
“It’s two teams with a couple of games under their belts.”
Seward has captured the Jayhawk West crown in each of the last two seasons.
“I told our guys that the road to the league crown goes through Seward,” Fletchall said of the Saints, the preseason favorite. “They were picked to win the division for a reason. They play the toughest schedule of anybody, they won the region last year and finished third in the nation.
“They return three starters and they’re an awfully good team. It would be a huge feather in our cap to go out there and play well and win. It will be a big game.”
Al Key leads the Cougars in scoring with a 19.5 points-per-game average. He also paces the team in free-throw shooting at 74.8 percent (77 for 103), while being tied for the team lead with fellow sophomore guard Turon Parker with 56 assists apiece.
Sophomore guard Andell Cumberbatch is averaging 14.9 points, second on the team, and Parker, who is averaging 13.0 points, leads the Cougars with 23 3-pointers and 31 steals.
Barton freshman post players Raheem Johnson and Dominique Wilson have made steady improvement, averaging 9.2 and 9.0 points, respectively.
Johnson leads the team in rebounding (109), and power forward Rapheal Stephens has averaged 6.7 points and 5.4 rebounds. Guard Kevin Kuteyi is averaging 8.1 points.