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Cougars at Kirkman in Region VI opener
spt mm Jonathan Pittman
Bartons Jonathan Pittman goes up for a basket during the Cougars overtime game with Cloud County last Saturday night at Kirkman Activity Center, won by the Thunderbirds 81-79. - photo by Mack McClure Great Bend Tribune

The Barton Community College Cougars have one of their taller tasks of the season tonight in a first-round game of the NJCAA Region VI basketball tournament.
The Cougars (24-6), the No. 4 seed out of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division, play host to fifth-seeded Neosho County (17-13), out of the East, tonight at 7 inside Kirkman Activity Center.
Nesoho County is the tallest team the Cougars have faced this season in 6-foot-11 Gregoryshon Magee, 6-10, 270-pound Chris Patton and 6-7 Tyler Hickert. Patton and Hickert are both from Australia.
“They’re going to sit back and play zone (2-3 zone defense) and we’re going to have to turn it into a track meet,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said. “They have several sophomores and they’re an upper division team out of the East.
“They’ve beaten Cowley and they’ve beaten Independence. They’re very big and long and shoot the ball pretty well.”
For the Cougars, whether this becomes Fast And The Furious, Part 2, remains to be seen, although it’s no secret they are at their best when they’re running and running some more — as their Jayhawk Conference-leading 87.5 points per game scoring average attests.
Both teams finished in fourth place in their respective standings. Barton was 10-6 in the Western Division, and Neosho County was 11-7 in the East.
“It was one of our goals to get a home playoff game,” Fletchall said, “and now we’ve got to go out and protect our turf for 40 minutes.”
The Cougars are led by sophomore forward Dwayne Brunson and freshman guard Algie Key.
Brunson led the West in rebounding (10.0 average) and blocked shots (3.0 per game) while averaging 17 points.
Key ranked in the top 5 in the West in scoring (19 points per game) and assists (5.0) and in the top 10 in steals (2.0).
Neosho County is led by guard Brison White, who is averaging 15.8 points, and Patton, who, like Brunson, is averaging a double-double with 15 points and 10.4 rebounds.
Magee is averaging 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds, and Hickert is scoring at a 6.4 clip and and rebounding at 5.9.
The winner of tonight’s game advances to Sunday’s quarterfinals against the winner of tonight’s Coffeyville-Pratt game in Coffeyville.