In a wintry time where nothing can be taken for granted, one thing is for certain in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference: the Barton Cougars have already secured third place in the West.
“We’ve got Allen Community College on Saturday night,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said of the upcoming first-round game of the NJCAA Region VI postseason basketball tournament. Tipoff has been pushed up to 3 p.m. inside Kirkman Activity Center.
But first things first. The Cougars would like nothing better than to get some momentum as they head into this weekend’s action by playing well tonight in Concordia against Cloud County. The regular-season finale for both teams starts at 8, preceded by the women’s game at 6.
“Wednesday’s game at Cloud is meaningless, as far as the playoffs,” Fletchall said. “We’re locked into third place, but we don’t want a letdown. We’re going to play to win.”
Cloud enters tonight’s action at 14-15, 5-10.
“It still means a lot,” Fletchall said. “We want to finish conference play with a win, and keep the momentum going.”
Barton, 24-5 overall, owns an 11-4 conference record. Hutchinson, 27-2, 13-2, sits in first place in the West, followed by Seward County (21-7), one-half game back at 12-2.
The Cougars are coming off a 67-65 victory at Colby on Sunday, a game that was rescheduled after being postponed last Wednesday. With the game clock winding down on Sunday, Barton guard Algie Key hit a driving layup with one second remaining for the game-winning basket.
“We got the ball, walked it up and we set a high-ball screen for Al by Raheem (Johnson),” Fletchall said of his team inbounding the ball after a pair of Colby free throws. “He drove to the basket and (Colby) helped off on Kevin (Kuteyi of Barton, who was spotting up in the corner).”
He put in a driving left-handed shot off the glass.
Colby had a last-ditch effort, but the Trojans’ desperation heave from nearly the length of the floor bounded off the backboard.
“We didn’t have any legs and to go on the road and win was big,” said Fletchall, whose team beat Pratt on Saturday night at home.
Key, averaging a team-best 18.0 points per game, continues to work his way up the career scoring chart at Barton. With 1,140 points during his two-year career, he needs eight points to tie former Barton and University of Oklahoma standout Ebi Ere for No. 5 on the list.