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Barton women sweep games at Hutchinson Classic
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If close-game experience early in the season pays off down the stretch the Barton women’s basketball should be good in tight games late in the season.
Barton closed out a good weekend at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson, going 2-0 at the Pawn and Jewelry Classic. The Cougars finished Saturday with another close game, edging Murray State (Okla.) after rolling to a double digit win the day before.
Barton rallied then held off Murray State to win 61-60. The Cougars rolled to a 70-55 win over the Central Methodist JV in a game Barton controlled from the tip.
The sweep ran Barton’s winning streak winning to four. The Cougars are 5-2 on the season.
“It was kind of the same thing over the weekend,” Barton coach Trevor Rolfs said. “We are still struggling to find our consistency – especially shooting the ball.”
The game against Murray State was the third time in seven games this season Barton played a game decided by two points or less. The Cougars are now 2-1 in those games. But it wasn’t thanks to great shooting. The Cougars hit just 27 percent from the field (17-of-63) in the win.
In the win over Murray State (3-3), the Cougars trailed by as many as eight in the opening half before rallying for the win. Barton trailed 22-14 after Murray State opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run.
Barton responded with a Kilee Harris 3-pointer out of a timeout, sparking a 15-8 run that close the margin to 40-39. A late bucket sent the Aggies to half on top by three.
The game was back-and-forth most of the second half. Barton took the lead for the first time since the opening period on a Jalisa Jones’ 3-pointer early in the third and the see-saw battle was on.
Barton began to pull away late in the game, building the lead so six with two minutes to play at 57-51. The Cougars pushed it back to six at 60-54 with 15 seconds left. A couple late treys by Murray State made the deficit one but Barton was not seriously challenged in the final seconds.
Harris scored 17 in the win to lead Barton. Regan Unruh added 12 and six rebound. Megan Jirak remained strong on the boards for Barton with 11 rebounds. The 5-10 freshman from Marion is averaging 10.9 rebounds per game to go with a team-high 13.4 points.
Memphis freshman point guard Alexus Bryson had a good line, scoring eight, grabbing seven rebounds and handing out a team-high four assists.
“We played real well defensively Saturday,” Coach Rolfs said. “Murray Sate basically had Hutch beat on Friday and had done some nice things offensively. We knew we had to guard well. They like to drive the ball so we played a lot of zone the first half but ended up playing mostly man-to-man the second half and did a fantastic job of defending them.”
Friday, Barton used a big run late in the first half to go to the break on top 41-26. That capped a 23-8 period for the Cougars that included 11 turnovers by the Eagles (2-4). All four Eagles losses are the Jayhawk Conference teams.
Barton kept it going to start the third, pushing the lead to 51-31 early in the quarter. The lead grew to 57-33 before Central Methodist close out the quarter on a 10-0 run. Barton coasted through the final quarter to the 15-point win.
“We just couldn’t make any of shots in the first half,” Coach Rolfs said. “We stretched it out to 24 midway through 3rd and had a chance to run away with it. But we would just miss and miss and miss some more. We just struggled the whole game.”
Jirak had a big game for the Cougars. The freshman scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. It was the fourth time in six games Jirak posted a double-double. The 23 points were a career-high. She also had three blocks.
Jones added 15 and a game-high five steals. Harris just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Bryson handed out seven assist.
The only thing that kept the Cougars from blowing the game wide open was a 34 percent shooting effort. Barton hit just 32-of-94 shots.
“I bet of our 82 2-point shots, 70 were in the paint,” Coach Rolfs said. “It was brutal. We missed a lot of bunnies. But we were getting them. It is just a matter of getting them to fall.”
The Cougars will be home for four straight games to close out the non-conference portion of the schedule. It will start Wednesday when the Sterling JV comes to the Barton Gym for a 5:30 p.m. tip.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Coach Rolfs said. “The pre-conference season is winding down in a hurry. We have four home games left and we would like to go to the conference season on a nice streak. It won’t be easy but it would be nice.”
Barton is home Friday to the Bethany JV then close out November with the Best Western/Booster Club Classic against Iowa Western and Otero.