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Defense paces Barton women to road win in Jayhawk
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Trevor Rolfs often talks about his team’s thin margin for error. One way to widen that line is by playing good defense game after game.
The Barton women’s basketball team widened that line Saturday on the road in the Jayhawk Conference by shutting down Neosho County in the second half on the way to a 60-47 win.
“In the second half we were really good,” Coach Rolfs said. “Anytime you can go on the road and win a conference game it is good.”
The win improved Barton to 2-4 in the Jayhawk and winners of 2 of 3 since returning from the Christmas break. Barton is 10-7 overall. It was the second straight Saturday road win to the eastern half of the conference.
The Cougars limited Neosho to just 16 second half. That turned a close 2-point halftime contest into the double digit win Barton was in need of. It was the fourth time this year the Cougars have held their opponents to less than 50 points but the first since November. Barton is 4-0 in those games.
“One of the reason we lost to Indy was because of defense breakdowns,” Coach Rolfs said. “Those breakdowns exposed that margin for error. It did in the first half against Neosho. But in the second half we did much better.”
In fact, Barton is 8-2 when opponents score 60 or less. The Cougars are just 2-5 when their foes score more than 60. The difference between a thin line and a bit wider line.
The Cougars never trailed at Neosho. Sophomore sharp shooter Kilee Harris provided the spark. The Protection native hit three consecutive treys from nearly the same spot on the floor to propel Barton to a 9-0 lead. Neosho would cut the lead to two on a few occasions and tie the contest once but Barton went to half up 33-31.
At intermission, the Panthers were riding the play of Kascity Martin and Ashlynd Horton. The two combinded for 26 of Neosho’s 31 points.
“You know how many they scored in the second half? Zero,” Coach Rolfs said. “While you can’t expect to hold those two scoreless in half, it tells you how well we played defense in the second half.”
Barton stretched its lead to 45-39 after three quarter then put a dagger in the Panthers to start the final period.
Alexus Bryson drained a trey from the left wing on the first possession of the final period and Regan Unruh followed with one from the deep off the right side of the top of the key on a secondary break for a quick 6-0 run in the first minute.
That pushed the Cougar lead to 51-39. Barton was not challenged the rest of the way as Neosho would get no closer than eight.
Harris paced the Cougars with 16 points highlighted by that opening run to start the game. Unruh came up big as well with 12 points and the huge trey early in the fourth. The Great Bend freshman led Barton with nine rebounds as well. Eight of the nine Cougars who suited up scored in the game.
Barton held Neosho to just six second half field goals and held the Panthers scoreless the final five minutes of the game.
Neosho is now 1-6 in the Jayhawk and 7-8 overall.
The Cougars will look to score their best win of the Jayhawk season Wednesday night at home. Garden City will make a visit to the Barton Gym. The Broncbusters are tied for the conference lead. Garden City and Hutchinson are both 6-1 in the Jayhawk. Coffeyville is 5-1.
Garden is 4-0 on the road with its only loss a home setback to Coffeyville, 70-57.Tip is set for 5:30 p.m.
“We need to get a streak going, to get on a roll” Coach Rolfs said of his team’s opportunity Wednesday “They’ve had a great start to the conference season obviously at 6-1.
“But on the women side of conference it is much more balanced that it used to be. The top teams are not a good as they usually are and the bottom teams better.  
“If we can learn to play as consistently as we need to, there isn’t a game we can’t win, at home or on the road, in the conference.  But, as I’ve said, our margin for error very, very small.”