By Greg Bates
ACN & Times-Press sports correspondent
It’s a phrase Seymour boys basketball coach Jon Murphy knows all too well. If one of his players is in a funk, the best way to get into a groove is to continue shooting.
After going just 2-for-8 from the field in the opening half, coach Murphy’s son, Riley, was in dire need of a dose of confidence. On his first shot attempt of the second half, Murphy drove baseline and converted a layup. The cold streak was over.
Murphy erupted for 21 points in the first nine minutes of the second half as Seymour went from down nine points to up 19 during a 33-5 run.
Seymour also amped up its defense on hot-shooting Luxemburg-Casco, as the Thunder pulled way for an 84-63 victory in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal on Tuesday, Feb. 27.
“We couldn’t really get into a flow on offense, so we just emphasized that we needed to pass some more, work it, get some layups,” said Riley Murphy, who finished with a game-high 27 points. “After that, we hit some layups, got some rhythm going, hit some 3s.”
Seymour was hitting 3-pointers left and right. The team drained 15 in the game with Murphy hitting seven and Trent Blake getting five.
“He’s got to not be temperamental,” coach Murphy said about his son. “He’s a shooter, so he’s got to hunt it. And he is a kid that once he gets it going, he’s a load because he can stretch the court.”
Blake also made the Luxemburg-Casco defense work in the opening half. He scored 18 points – and 25 for the game — to keep the Thunder in the game.
Seymour (14-9) is tough to stop when it has balanced scoring.
“We’ve got to be a little bit of everybody,” coach Murphy said. “We can’t be just Trent or just Riley. We’re really good when we’ve got four guys in rhythm and attacking. That’s a function of sharing the ball. I don’t think we did very well in the first half. A lot of one-, two-pass possessions.”
Seymour, the No. 7 seed, took a 30-23 lead after a Murphy 3-pointer in a fast-paced opening half. The Thunder was 7-for-11 on 3s to start the game.
No. 10-seeded Luxemburg-Casco, which came into the game winners of four of its previous five games, started hitting everything. The Spartans shot almost 70 percent from the field and went on a 20-6 run in the final 8:21 to go up 43-36 at halftime. Seymour had a tough time stopping Spartans big man Nathan Coisman, who finished with 26 points.
“We said at halftime, ‘We can’t let them shoot these open shots,’” coach Murphy said. “I think they had eight 3s in the first half. And we didn’t come out on them and they’d dish it inside, and the big guy was hurting us. So, we just kind of cranked up the pressure and started denying things and got things going our way.”
Down nine points in the first minute of the second half, Murphy hit the baseline layup and a 3-pointer to start heating up. Rhett Driessen took a charge to give Seymour the ball back and Murphy promptly nailed a 3-pointer to give the Thunder the lead back, 46-45, for good. A Luxemburg-Casco player thought Murphy pushed off on the 3-pointer and was called for a technical foul. During Seymour’s mini 14-0 spurt, Luxemburg-Casco (6-17) was only able to attempt two shots.
“Credit to our coaches, they found out what was going to work for defense,” Seymour senior Trevor Cornell said. “We started pushing a lot baseline, just trying to really get them out of the flow of their offense.”
The run stretched to 33-5 as Murphy hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 69-50 with 8:59 remaining.
With only a couple minutes left on the clock, Cornell sat down on the bench between his two fellow seniors, Josh Krause and Cayden Waller. Cornell put his arms around his teammates in their final home game of their careers.
“That was just a moment to reflect,” Cornell said. “I love those guys to death. Those guys are the three that stuck it out through everything. Those guys are my brothers. I’ve been through hell and back with them. That was a really great moment.”
It was special for Cornell to get a win his final home game.
“I remember being a freshman being called up for playoffs, seeing the emotion that ran through the seniors that were on this team,” Cornell said. “Kind of dreaded the moment coming, but I mean it’s got to happen eventually. I’m glad we could pull it out and get a win last home game.”
The victory advanced the Thunder in the second round of playoffs against Pulaski on March 2. But it was also a monumental win for Murphy, his 600th as the Seymour coach. He is only the fifth boys basketball coach in Wisconsin to reach that mark.
“It’s not something you ever set out to do, but I guess it’s a testament to my longevity and being able to work — this is into my fourth decade with kids,” Murphy said. “I look at that and it’s just amazing that that’s happened. I just feel like I’ve been the right guy in the right place. This community’s been great. I’ve had a ton of talent over the years.”
The win was made more special because for the last five seasons he’s had one of his sons on the team.
“To be towards the end of coaching career, to be out here with Riley, Jack the past few years, those are moments that I’ve treasured,” coach Murphy said. “I’ve spent decades with other peoples’ kids, and I’ll certainly cherish this time with my own.”
“It feels really good and it means a lot to us,” Riley Murphy said. “Obviously, winning is important to us. It just feels really good to be able to do that for him.”
Cornell loved being a part of the historic win for his longtime coach.
“I grew up during the entire state dynasty,” Cornell said. “Those were the first eight years that I was alive, so growing up with that and being able to build off of that history means a lot to me.”
Cayden Waller successfully drives to the basket in the Thunder 84 to 63 win over Luxemburg-Casco on Tuesday, Feb. 27 Regional quarter final game. – Photo by Ken Hodgden
By Greg Bates