Seymour’s boys basketball team got a taste of its own medicine during Friday night’s semifinal round of the Class 4A Seymour Sectional.
Throughout the season, the Owls grew accustomed to being the superior defense on the floor. On Friday, however, it was a talented Jeffersonville squad whose defense hounded and harassed the Owls all over the court.
The result was a season-ending 55-40 loss for Seymour. Jeffersonville advanced to today’s sectional championship game where Floyd Central awaits. The Highlanders defeated New Albany in Friday’s other semifinal game.
In early December, Seymour beat Jeffersonville by eight points, but these weren’t the same Red Devils. Battling a variety of issues on-court and off, Jeff started the season with a 2-8 record.
Now back at full strength, the Devils have won seven of their last 10 games and find themselves with a chance to claim the sectional title.
“Their overall quickness and length gave us problems, there’s no doubt about that,” Seymour head coach Kirk Manns said. “We looked disjointed, and we didn’t move well without the ball. You’ve got to give Jeff a lot of credit.”
Using a full-court press and a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses in the half-court, Jeff kept Seymour off-balance. The Owls shot just 34 percent from the field (16 for 47) and turned the ball over 15 times.
The Red Devils ended with six blocked shots, including three of the Owls’ first five shot attempts around the basket.
“With their length and their quickness, we couldn’t get the ball into the middle and down to the baseline,” Seymour senior Andrew Levine said. “They got those early blocks and we got a little hesitant, our offense slowed down. When we got going again, it was too late.”
Jeff opened the game quickly, taking an 11-3 lead. Seymour fought back to close the gap to 17-14 with 6:40 left in the second quarter.
That’s when the game turned. The Owls made just one field goal over the next eight minutes, allowing Jeff to construct 19-2 run that converted its narrow lead into a commanding 36-16 advantage.
“It snowballed,” Manns said. “We had a bad ending to the first half and a bad start to the second half. We were climbing uphill. Against a good team, it’s difficult to dig a hole like that and fight your way back, especially when we weren’t shooting the ball well.”
The Owls emerged from their struggles late in the third quarter and used a 10-0 run to reduce the deficit to 46-34 with 7:28 left in the game.
But consecutive 3-pointers by Jeff’s Kobe Stoudamire and Will Lovings-Watts slammed the door on Seymour’s comeback hopes. The Owls never got closer than 15 the rest of the way.
“I’ve been saying all week that they’re a better shooting team than people give them credit for,” Manns said. “Tonight, they rose to the occasion and made some big shots.”
For Jeffersonville, Lovings-Watts led with a game-high 14 points, followed by Brandon Rayzer-Moore with 12.
The Owls were paced by senior Marcus Brooks, who ended with 12 points. Levine and Charlie Longmeier followed with seven points each. Eli Meyer, Casey Regruth and Landon Fritsch added four points apiece.
Meyer highlighted Seymour’s defensive effort by blocking an attempted dunk by Lovings-Watts at the basket.
Friday’s loss ended a magical season for the Owls, who finished with a 15-7 overall record, the program’s best mark since the 2006-07 season.
The 15 regular-season victories were Seymour’s best showing since the 1987-88 season. That win total included “last time when” wins over Columbus North (last win coming in 2009) and Silver Creek (2014).
The defense became a story in the second half of the season as the Owls held opponents under 30 points seven times in their last 13 games, including limiting Shelbyville to 18.
“We were able to accomplish some pretty cool things,” Regruth said. “We got some big wins. It felt like we were competitive no matter who we played. That was the whole goal this season. We really grew as a team. It was a great time and a great season. The loss definitely hurts right now, but I can’t put into words how much these guys mean to me.”
For Regruth, Levine and Brooks, a three-season journey ended bittersweetly. Though Friday’s loss stings, the progress within the program left the three with fond feelings.
“It’s been such a blessing and an honor to wear ‘Seymour’ across my chest these three years,” Brooks said. “The program is in good hands. The coaching staff is great, led by Coach Manns. This was a special season. There were more people in the stands, more enthusiasm. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, but that’s OK.”
Added Manns, “Our program has taken huge steps in great part due to our seniors’ effort, energy and commitment. I’m happy for them. They’ve done a lot for this program and I’m grateful to have been a part of their lives.”