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Barton winning streak snapped at eight in final visit to Barton Gym for Flax
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Barton coach Craig Fletchall (left) shakes hands with Brown Mackie Coach Francis Flax prior to the game Saturday. Flax is retiring after 32 years and made his final visit to the Barton Gym, a venue he has coaches numerous contests over the years.

The final visit to the Barton Gym for Coach Francis Flax was a memorable one. The Brown Mackie College men’s basketball coach, wrapping up a 32-year career this season, made his final visit to a gym that he has visited probably about as many times as any other gym but his own over his career. In that final game Saturday afternoon the veteran coach left with a 97-93 win over the host Barton Community College Cougars.
The visitors were in control of the game most of the way then held off the Cougars to snap Barton’s eight-game winning streak and hand Barton its first home loss of the season. The win moved Brown Mackie, ranked No. 14 in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, to 10-3 on the season while Barton fell to 10-2.
“I felt pretty good about our team going in,” Coach Fletchall said. “We had won several in a row and after we made a run early in the second half, I felt good. But they just out-toughed us.”
Over the years Coach Flax has visited the Barton Gym on several occasion often playing in Classics as well as several games against Barton. Many of those contests have been thrillers. Saturday was no different.
“We honored him before the game,” Coach Craig Fletchall said. “He has said this is going to be his last season and with this team he has a chance to do good things this year – probably a top 10 DII team.”
The contest featured eight ties and seven lead changes. In the end it was the Lions’ ability to make free throws – and grab a big offensive rebound – that was the difference.
Brown Mackie used a 9-2 run in the opening half to turn a 2-point game into a 37-28 lead with just less than seven minutes to play. It would be the biggest lead of the game for either team. The Lions still held an 8-point advantage at the intermission as both team lit up the scoreboard. Brown Mackie led 53-45 at half.
The Cougars wasted little time in getting right back in the game as Barton exploded out of the half with eight straight points and when Tyrone Acuff knocked down a jumper less than two minutes into the half it was tied at 53-all.
From that point on it was a battle. Barton took its biggest lead of the second half when Khalil Gracey buried a jumper with 7:45 left to give the Cougars a 75-72 lead. The Cougars had a chance to extend that lead but missed a free throw and Aha Suerus McDonald followed with a 3-pointer for the Lions to even the game at 75-all one minute later.
That McDonald three started a 12-1 run that gave Brown Mackie an 84-76 lead with 4:42 to play after McDonald hit a free throw for the Lions. From that point on it was an uphill battle for the Cougars.
The Cougars clawed their back, though, and when Acuff hit a layup off an assist from Ahmad Walker Barton had whittled the lead to 88-87 with 2:10 to play. The freshman from Detroit was fouled on the play and had a chance to tie the game but couldn’t convert the free throw.
A pair of Nygel Jones free throws for Brown Mackie followed by a Jalin Barnes jumper kept the game at a single point when Goch Ajak went to the line for Brown Mackie with 30 seconds left.
Ajak made the first and following a Barton timeout missed the second. But Ajak grabbed his own rebound and immediately knocked down a jumper to give the Lions a 93-89 lead.
A pair of Walker free throws cut the lead to 93-91 but Brown Mackie continued to hit free throws as McDonald hit 4-for-4 from the charity stripe for the Lions to secure the win.
Walker continued his hot play for Barton as the sophomore poured in 30 for the Cougars paced by a 13-of-17 effort form the charity stripe. Acuff added 16, Barnes 14 and Gracey 12. Eddie Hunt led Barton with 10 rebounds.
McDonald had a line similar to Walker’s. The Flint, Mich. sophomore ended with 32 paced by a 12-of-15 effort at the free throw line. Ajak added 16 and biggest offensive rebound of the game. Macam Macam, a 6-11 sophomore, had 13 points and 15 rebounds.
“I thought the big 6-11 kid got started early. He had 11 in the first nine minutes, then we held him in bay,” Coach Fletchall said. But that is when McDonald went off. It was our first time agaistn some height and he altered our jumper early. Then we quit taking it to him and settled for jump shots.”
Barton will travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. this weekend for a pair of games in the Kalamazoo Valley Classic. The Cougars will take on host Kalamazoo Valley Community College in the opener Friday night followed by a Saturday afternoon contest against Kellogg Community College.
Those game will be the final games until conference play which starts Jan. 3 when Seward County visits the Barton Gym.