DODGE CITY – The first meeting between the Barton men’s basketball team and Dodge City produced possibly the best half of basketball this season for the Cougars.
The best first half for sure. The Cougars, who have struggled mightily during the first 20 minutes this year, jumped to a 56-21 halftime lead on the way to a 97-74 win.
When the two met up again Saturday at the Activities Center in Dodge City, the Cougars were hoping for another big start.
While Barton may not have gotten that huge first half, the 11th ranked Cougars did lead at halftime for just the eighth time during Jayhawk Conference play.
That laid the foundation for a 97-92 win over Dodge City as the Cougars inched a step closer to the Jayhawk Conference title.
“We were ahead at halftime,” Coach Craig Fletchall said. “I wasn’t sure what to say to the team. We never lead at half so I didn’t have a speech ready for them.
“We had a lot more energy tonight. I felt like we played pretty well for the most. That was nice to see.”
The Cougars are now 18-3 in the Jayhawk and 22-3 overall. Dodge City is 6-15 and 8-17. Barton is now 9-1 on the road in the Jayhawk.
The Cougars find themselves clinging to a 1-game lead in the loss column over both Coffeyville and Hutchinson. Coffeyville is 17-4 in the conference, winners of nine straight following their win at Neosho Saturday. Hutch, 16-4, played late at home against Butler.
The Cougars will get a huge game next when Hutch comes to the Barton Gym for a 7:30 pm tip on Valentine’s Day. The Pink Out Night contest will have large Jayhawk Conference title implications on the line. Hutch won the first meeting back in December, 81-73.
“This could have been a trap game for us with Hutchinson waiting in the wings,” Coach Fletchall said. “Our kids showed a lot of character to not look past Dodge City with Hutch next up. Our guys will be ready to go.”
The opening 20 minutes Saturday were entertaining to say the least. The back-and-forth half saw several lead changes. Neither team led by more than three points for the first nearly 17 minutes.
A quick exchanged that summed up the half was when Akeem White threw down a dunk to give Barton a 29-28 lead and 10 seconds later Tajae Anderson drilled a trey to give Dodge City the lead back at 31-29 with 6:09 left in the half. Those were the 12th and 13th lead changes of the first 14 minutes of the contest.
Barton finally got that lead beyond three with back-to-back buckets. First a 3-pointer by White then a bucket by Kawanise ‘Squeaky’ Wilkins on an assist from Keshon Montague for a 37-33 lead with 3:18 left in the half.
By the time the dust settled in the first half, Barton led 41-38. It was a half that saw the 15 lead changes.
Barton tried to take control in the opening stages of the second half, building a lead as high as 51-44 following a baseline jumper from Montague just more than 16 minutes to play in the game.
But the Conquistadors answered with their third trey of the half – the second from Anderson – and another bucket to cut it to 51-49.
The Cougars responded. When Noah Webster knocked down a trey from the left wing, Barton was on a 7-0 run and had its biggest lead of the game at 58-49 with 13:55 to play.
The lead would bounce between 5-7 points over the next four minutes as Barton went to the media timeout up 63-57 with 9:40 to play.
The teams continued to trade baskets until Montague and Ford hit back-to-back buckets for a 71-64 lead with six minutes to play.
Barton got the lead back to nine following a strong 3-point play in the lane from Marvin Cannon and another drive from Montague for a 77-68 lead with 4:38 to play.
Dodge answered back with five straight. Cannon ended that run with a pair of free throws and Ford added another for an 80-73 lead with just left than three minutes to play.
Barton got the lead to 84-75 after another Cannon bucket and two Ford free throws with two minutes left.
A dagger came when Wilkins beat the shot clock with a 25-footer for an 89-80 lead with less than one minute left in the game.
The Cougars survived some missed free throws and a turnover in the final minute and when Roy Broomfield hit two free throws with 10 seconds to play, Barton led 95-90. Two more Montague free throws with 4.7 seconds left put the game on ice at 97-92.
Wilkins and Montague each scored 20 to lead the Cougars. Montague scored 19 of his 20 in the second half. Cannon scored 17 points, 15 in the second half and finished with five blocks. White scored 13 points in the first half and finished with 15.
The Jayhawk lead will be on the line Wednesday night when Hutchinson makes a visit to the Barton Gym.
Barton has just five regular season games left, starting with the much anticipated match-up Wednesday with Hutch.
No. 11 Barton 97,
Dodge City 92
Barton 41 56 – 97
Dodge 38 54 – 92
Barton (18-3, 22-3) 97
Wilkins 7-10 4-6 20, Ford 4-8 3-4 11, Cannon 4-8 9-11 17, Montague 5-11 10-10 20, Webster 3-11 0-0 8, Andrews 1-2 0-0 2, White 5-6 4-5 15, Broomfield 1-1 2-2 4. Totals – 30-57 32-38 97.
Dodge City (6-15, 8-17) 92
Anderson 5-10 2-2 16, Howard 2-11 2-2 7, Dixon 8-13 4-4 21, Freels 6-10 4-6 16, Lawrence 0-3 0-0 0, MCGroarty 5-10 0-0 12, Seniguar 6-9 0-0 12, McCray 1-5 0-0 2, Murphy 0-0 0-0 0, Hodges 0-0 0-0 0, Blackwell 2-8 0-0 6. Totals –- 35-79 12-14 92.
3-pointers – Barton 5-15 (Wilkins 2-4, Webster 2-7, White 1-1, Ford 0-1, Montague 0-2); Dodge 10-24 (Anderson 4-5, Blackwell 2-5, McGroarty 2-7, Howard 1-2, Dixon 1-5.).
Rebounds – Barton 37 (Ford, Cannon, Broomfield 6), Dodge 37 (Freels 8). Assists – Barton 14 (Montague 6), Dodge 17 (Dixon 9). Steals – Barton 3 (Cannon, Webster, Broomfield), Dodge 4 (Freels 2, McGroarty 2). Blocks – Barton 8 (Cannon 5), Dodge 2 (McGroarty, Seniguar).
Turnovers – Barton 10, Dodge 7. Fouled Out – None. Technicals – None.