The format has changed this March for the National Junior College Athletic Association Region VI basketball championship.
Instead of staging three days of action at Hartman Arena in Park City, a suburb of Wichita, the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference will be hosting two days there — region semifinal and championship games.
“The way the region format is now, we know the quarterfinals will not be at a neutral site, so to get to Wichita this year, we’ll have to win a road game against a higher-seeded East team,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said.
The Cougars, 22-5 overall, 9-4 Jayhawk West, have already secured a home berth at Kirkman Activity Center for the first round. Providing Barton wins that game, it will have to go on the road.
Let Fletchall explain.
“We’ll get the first-round region home game,” Fletchall said. “If we finish third (in the West), we could face the second seed on the road and it might be Cowley (at Arkansas City for a region quarterfinal).
“If we dropped to fourth, we’d have to go to Coffeyville. It would be a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, but it would be on (the Red Ravens’) home floor.”
Coffeyville, 26-1, is ranked No. 2 in Tuesday’s NJCAA poll behind top-ranked Spartanburg Methodist, 27-0, which has held down the top spot the last two weeks. Former No. 1 Hutchinson, 25-2, dropped from fourth to sixth in the rankings after losing 87-81 to Barton last Wednesday night.
The Cougars’ standing shows how strong the conference is with the likes of Hutchinson and two-time defending West champion Seward County standing firm.
“This is not a good year to finish third or fourth, but at the beginning of the season, if someone would have told us that we would have clinched a home berth with three games remaining, I would have taken that, too,” Fletchall said. “We’re home on Saturday, March 2 (for the first round).”
Fletchall threw down the gauntlet to Barton post player Raheem Johnson, who scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds during the Cougars’ most recent game, the win over Hutch.
“If we want to advance, Raheem has got to play like he did against Hutch,” Fletchall said, “because that’s the missing link for us.
“You can’t go too deep in the postseason without a post player. I think he was pretty dominant last week and we need that type of effort.”