Getting the monkey off their backs, the No. 24-ranked Barton Community College Cougars beat Cowley — a team that had eliminated them from the NJCAA Region VI postseason basketball tournament in each of the last two seasons — 75-68 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night in Arkansas City.
Next up: Defending region champion and three-time defending Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division champion Seward County.
Barton (27-5) and unranked Seward (25-7) meet tonight at 5:30 in a region semifinal at Hartman Arena in Park City.
“I like our chances, but they’ve won 10 in a row and haven’t lost since January,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said of the Saints. “They are the defending region champs and took third in the nation last season.
“Really, the last several years the region has gone through Coffeyville or Seward.”
Seward is led by Kaheem Ransom, who is averaging 16.6 points — one of three Saints averaging double figures in scoring — and has a team-high 74 3-pointers while shooting 38.1 percent from downtown.
“Seward’s had a lot of success recently with Division-I transfers,” Fletchall said. “Kaheem’s kind of the old-school type of player. He was under-recruited and has been there for two years and consistently a scorer.
“He was always able to shoot the basketball, but now he’s able to put the ball on the floor and hitting runners and pull-up jumpers.”
• Key always getting attention
Sophomore guard Al Key is like a basketball magnet when he steps on the court for Barton.
The penetrating Key, a returning third-team All-America selection and newcomer of the year as a freshman, is the Cougars’ leading scorer with a 17.5 per-game average. He seems to always draw the best defender from the other team, as well as others.
So it comes in handy when the Cougars are hitting shots from the perimeter.
“Obviously, it was a weakness that we’ve addressed and we have guys that are stepping up and hitting shots,” Fletchall said. “Al is drawing so much attention that he’s been averaging about 10 assists per game the last month.”
The 6-foot-4 guard also leads Barton in assists (138), and ranks second in steals (59) while ranking third on the team in rebounds per game at 6.2 (198).
Key had a triple-double against Cowley, scoring grabbing 13 rebounds, scoring 11 points and handing out 10 assists.
Barton has three sophomores averaging in double digits in scoring — Key, Andell Cumberbatch and Turon Parker. … Cumberbatch is averaging 14.3 points — second on the team — and leads the Cougars with an 8.0 rebounding average. ... Parker is averaging 12.1 points, leads the team in steals with 60 and ranks No. 2 in assists with 114. ... Shooting guard Trey Unrau, who hit 7 of 11 3s for a career-high 21 points in the win over Cowley, has made a team-best 44.8 percent of his 3-pointers (44 for 96). ... Parker leads the Cougars with 57 3s.
NJCAA Region VI
Postseason Basketball Tournament
Hutchinson vs. Butler, 1:30 p.m.
Garden City vs. Cowley, 3:30 p.m.
Seward County vs. Barton, 5:30 p.m.
Hutchinson vs. Coffeyville, 7:30 p.m