Fans of Seymour’s boys basketball team did a collective double-take Feb. 20 when the IHSAA announced sectional pairings for the 112th annual boys basketball state tournament.
The Owls drew a bye and are scheduled to play their first postseason game this Friday in the semifinal round of the Class 4A Seymour Sectional. They will play the winner of Jeffersonville and Bedford North Lawrence, who meet in the first round at 6 p.m. today.
New Albany received the other bye and will take on the winner of the first-round match between Jennings County and sectional-favorite Floyd Central.
“I was definitely surprised to get a bye,” Seymour junior guard Landon Fritsch said after watching the pairings show with his teammates.
“Traditionally, we have played on the first night in the 6 o’clock game, so I was surprised,” Seymour head coach Kirk Manns said.
Manns and Fritsch’s reactions mirrored the sentiments of Owl fans who scoured their memories in search of the last time Seymour received a sectional bye.
The answer: 2014.
Historically speaking, first-round byes are not uncommon for Seymour, but as the answer above indicates, they have been much less common recently.
In the 25 years since Indiana’s class basketball era started in 1998, Seymour has drawn seven byes with four of them clustered in the first seven years (1998, 2000, 2001 and 2004). The Owls then enjoyed byes in 2011 and 2014 but hadn’t experienced another until this year’s draw.
Beyond the historical novelty, of course, Seymour’s players and head coach were less interested in the bye than in their first potential opponent.
“No matter who the opponent is, they’re going to be very good,” Manns said. “Jeffersonville and Bedford are both good teams who are getting a lot better.”
Seymour (15-6) defeated both teams during the regular season, beating Jeff in early December 55-47 and then downing Bedford 36-26 in January.
Jeffersonville (7-11) has won five of its last eight games, including a 44-42 thriller over Bedford two weeks ago. Bedford (11-11), meanwhile, won three of its last five games, including a 12-point victory over New Albany.
Seymour closed its season on a four-game winning streak, capping off the regular season with a big 63-54 victory at Silver Creek in overtime.
“I do not expect coach Manns to ease up at all, despite the bye,” junior forward Eli Meyer said. “I do not expect any easy practices or any easy days… We’re going to have to keep up the momentum and take care of business.”
“The reality is we need to have a good week,” Manns said. “We need to play well, we need to get better, we need to continue to gain confidence and momentum.”
Cognizant of the work ahead, the fun and magic of March Madness still tickles the players’ minds.
“I’ve always gone to sectional and regional games at Seymour,” said Fritsch, who is looking forward to participating in his third Seymour Sectional. “I always thought it was cool how the games leading up to state are played at Seymour.”
Seymour’s capacious Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium annually hosts sectional, regional and oftentimes semistate tournaments during the month of March.
This year’s Owls hope to make an extended tournament run. In their last 11 games, they’ve won eight times and are limiting opponents to just 35.8 points per game.
“Our leadership has been better since January,” Manns said. “We’ve always had a good locker room, but it’s even better at this point. It’s a group that enjoys spending time together. It shows when they’re playing. When you see the basketball move the way they can move it, you can tell they don’t care who gets the credit.”
At Seymour High School, there will be no cash ticket sales for the games. Tickets will only be available through the GoFan app.
An all-session ticket package is available to purchase right now for $10 on GoFan. Those will be on sale from now until March 4. Then, there will be single-session tickets.
Single-session tickets for tonight’s games will be $6 and available through GoFan starting at 8 a.m.
The second session is Friday. Single-session tickets for those games will be $6 and available through GoFan starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Finally, the third session will be Saturday. The championship game will begin at 7:30 p.m. Single-session tickets for that game will be $6 and available through GoFan starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.