The Seymour girls basketball team was able to hold off any late comeback by sinking shots at the free-throw line against visiting Columbus East on Thursday.
Seymour went 15 for 17 from the line to close out the game and secure a 59-50 Hoosier Hills Conference win.
In the first quarter, the Owls opened on an 11-3 run behind seven points by senior Morgan Ritz at the 2:52 mark.
A 3-pointer by the Olympians’ Breiana Burton ended Seymour’s run, and Riley Meade hit all her free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt to narrow the deficit to 11-9 with 1:12 on the clock.
Trailing 17-11 after eight minutes of play, East senior Audrey Wetzel heated up from the field.
Wetzel scored seven of the Olympians’ nine points in the second quarter, but her team would trail 28-20 at the break.
Seymour’s Kayla Griffin accounted for 13 of the Owls’ 28 total points in the first half behind five field goals and a pair of free throws.
East used a press defense to frustrate Seymour in the third quarter, as the Owls gave up six turnovers.
“I’m fine with the press speeding us up, but during that stretch we made some really silly turnovers,” Longmeier said. “We expected them to press us, and we knew it was going to happen, but we allowed some things and Wetzel got going, and I thought she was excellent tonight.”
The Olympians closed the gap midway through third by going on a 7-0 run at 33-32 with 2:23 on the clock.
Five straight points by Seymour junior Lauren James gave the Owls a 40-36 advantage heading into the fourth.
The closest East (7-8, 1-2 HHC) would get to a lead was at 44-42 with 5:10 remaining before James was fouled on a 3-pointer to put Seymour up by five.
“We hung in there until the end,” Olympians coach Danny Brown said. “You have to learn from each game. Our conference is tough; Seymour is the best team in (the HHC), and we knew that coming in. It was anybody’s game towards the game, and we had a shot to take the lead with plenty of time left. We’re going to start hitting those shots soon — we will get to that point where we’re tough to beat.”
Wetzel finished with a game-high 27 points along with 10 rebounds.
Meade added eight points and Kristen Lyons had six with nine boards.
“We had to go through Audrey Wetzel quite a bit and had to get her going,” Brown said. “We just couldn’t knock down shots, and I give credit to Seymour’s defense.”
Brown said that East’s program mirrors Seymour.
“We’re in the same situation that Seymour was two years ago,” he said. “Now, they’re seniors and we’re sophomores. A lot of their sophomores were playing major minutes back then. We started four sophomores tonight. We need to get that experience for next year, and especially two years from now. We will be that team that’s hard to beat like Seymour is now.”
Griffin notched 22 for Seymour (13-3, 5-0 HHC) with 10 rebounds and Mikayla Fee added 12 and seven boards.
“I think Kayla would have managed 30 points tonight if she hadn’t gotten in foul trouble — she sat almost the whole third quarter,” Longmeier said. “We knew that coming in Wetzel was going to be a tough matchup for Kayla. Our biggest fear was that Wetzel would get her in foul trouble, and that’s exactly what happened.
“I think they shoot the ball well and understand their strength. I thought Lyons also played a good game tonight. Danny’s teams always play hard, and I have a lot of respect for him and his program. (East) came out and were more aggressive than we were. I thought they came in and put themselves in position to steal a win.”