BY MIKE MARZOLF
Special to the Tribune
If the first half of the season told the rest of the Jayhawk Conference anything, it was the Barton men just might be a bit better than that sixth place predicted finish back in the preseason.
The Cougars had at least a share of the conference lead until the final game of the first semester and now sit in a 3-way tie for second, one game out of the lead.
Hutchinson, the preseason No. 1 team in the NJCAA, is leading the pack at 8-1 with Barton, Coffeyville, and Cowley on the Blue Dragons heels at 7-2. Garden City along with a couple of surprise teams – Colby and Seward County – are next at 5-4.
As Barton readies to start up the second semester and the grind of 17 Jayhawk Conference games, the do so ranked No. 21 in the country. Barton is 11-2 overall.
The schedule will resume when Cloud County visits the Barton Gym Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. tip. Cloud is just 2-7 in the conference and 4-8 overall, but have handed Hutchinson it’s only loss of the year.
“We had a pretty good first semester,” Barton Coach Craig Fletchall said. “We really only had one bad game. In our loss to Allen County, our guys just didn’t really compete well.
“Other than that, we played pretty good basketball. Don’t get me wrong, we were fortunate to win a few of those games but the kids did what they needed to do to get the job done.”
Barton trailed at halftime in six of those nine conference games. The Cougars rallied to win four of those six contests. Barton won one game in overtime, another by three, another by five and yet another by seven.
But, it wasn’t all comebacks and last-minute wins.
Barton went on the road and drilled Independence by 27 and won by 23 over Dodge City in two of its final three games before the semester break.
“At times we were very lucky to win,” Coach Fletchall said. “But at times, we actually looked like a pretty good basketball team. After the loss to Allen, we sort of regained some focus and really played well those last three games.”
The semester ended with a loss at defending NJCAA Champion Hutchinson. A game in which Barton had the ball the with a chance for the lead in the final minutes before falling to the No. 6 Blue Dragons at the Sports Arena, 81-73.
The biggest key to the first half of the season has been the balanced attack the Cougars have shown.
Six Barton players are averaging double figures. Kawanise ‘Squeaky’ Wilkins is leading the way at 16.2 per contest. The 6-5 freshman is also averaging 9.0 rebounds per contest.
Fellow freshman Marvin Cannon is scoring 13.4 per game while sophomores Sam Lorenzen and Keshon Montague are both scoring 12.2 per outing. Lorenzen is hitting nearly 45 percent on his 3-pointers while Montague is handing out nearly six assists per contest.
Joining those four in double figure scoring on the season are Elijah Ford and Noah Webster. Ford is scoring 10.2 per game and Webster an even 10.0.
The Cougars will open 2018 with a pair of home games against teams near the bottom of the Jayhawk. After Cloud comes in with its 2-7 Jayhawk mark, Pratt, 3-6 and 6-7, will come to Barton Saturday.
The Cougars first road game of the second semester will be a trip to No. 18 Coffeyville on Jan. 10.
JAYHAWK CONFERENCE MEN
Hutchinson 8-1 12-1
Barton 7-2 11-2
Coffeyville 7-2 11-2
Cowley 7-2 10-3
Seward County 5-4 9-4
Garden City 5-4 9-4
Colby 5-4 9-4
Independence 4-5 7-5
Pratt 3-6 6-7
Neosho County 3-6 5-7
Dodge City 3-6 5-8
Butler 2-7 5-7
Cloud County 2-7 4-8
Allen County 2-7 4-9
Cloud at Barton County
Butler at Pratt
Colby at Neosho
Dodge City at Allen
Garden City at Coffeyville
Hutchinson at Cowley
Independence at Seward
Pratt at Barton County
Allen at Hutchinson
Coffeyville at Butler
Cowley at Cloud
Independence at Dodge City
Neosho at Garden City
Seward at Colby
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