By Greg Bates
Times Press sports correspondent
GREEN BAY – Having good free throw shooters has always been a staple for Jon Murphy’s teams.
His young squad came up big against Beaver Dam, hitting 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute. That helped the Seymour boys basketball turn a one-point game into 50-44 victory over Beaver Dam at the annual Shawano Sun Drop Shootout at the Kress Events Center on Thursday, Dec. 27.
“It’s a big win,” Murphy said. “Both these teams are pretty solid and we need to win when we get in these tight games. We’ve got to perform, and I thought we did that. We made it a little more difficult on ourselves, but we overcame a couple of things. We missed a couple of (free) throws down the stretch, Riley (Murphy) did, who’s a pretty good free throw shooter. Then we had a couple of really good looks, Trent (Blake) and Riley, the kids we want taking them. We did what we had to. I think the last four possessions that they had they had a couple turnovers — we had a couple of steals and we had a blocked shot and forced shot. We didn’t give them good looks.”
Seymour’s defense was solid in the second half. With the game tied at 29 early in the second half, the Thunder switched out of its man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone. It gave Beaver Dam fits.
During one stretch, the Golden Beavers went scoreless for over six minutes as Seymour pushed its lead to five points, 40-35. That turned the tide of the game.
“They seemed to be getting a little bit of a rhythm and that allowed us to play big,” Murphy said. “It’s a tough team to play big against because they’ve got so many guards but that allowed our big three across the middle – Trent (Blake), Tyler VandeCorPut and Peyton VanDeHei – we’re long on the wings. It caused them a little pause there for a little bit and got them out of sync and got a couple steals out of it and stretched our lead to five, six. Sometimes in a game like this that’s all you need to hang on.”
In the final 13 minutes of the game, Beaver Dam scored just nine points and three made field goals.
“We mixed it up and we didn’t let them get much of a flow on,” said Seymour guard Riley Murphy, who scored a game-high 14 points. “It slowed them down and they had to shoot 3s. We stopped them and they missed a bunch.”
With Seymour (6-3) leading 45-42, Beaver Dam (5-4) scored a hoop and was fouled. However, Adam Bird missed the free throw with 1:40 remaining. Trying to play keep-away at the end, Seymour’s Rhett Driessen hit a pair of free throws. Then Murphy followed with a steal and was fouled. He converted on one of two free throws to make it 48-44. On Beaver Dam’s next possession, Seymour forced a contested 3-pointer and Blake pulled down the rebound. He calmly sank two free throws with 7.3 seconds left to make it 50-44.
“We just played tough D, didn’t give them many good looks and ran the offense and didn’t turn the ball over,” said Seymour guard Mason Dorn, who hit three first-half 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
Seymour had nice balance with four players scoring eight or more points. VanDeHei added 11 points and Blake – the team’s leading scorer on the season – chipped in eight.
“We got a lot of nice performances from different kids,” coach Murphy said. “Mason Dorn came out and got going a little bit, then Riley started getting to the basket. Trent (Blake) didn’t have his usual night, but they had a really good player on him. I don’t think he forced stuff.
“I thought the team just played together. I was really happy with that.”
Seymour had a slow start, but with the game tied at 5, the Thunder ran off the next nine points as Dorn drained back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 14-5. The Thunder upped its lead to 20-10 before Beaver Dam went on a 7-0 run. Looking as if it would hold for the final shot of the opening half, Murphy drove to the hoop for a layup to give Seymour a 27-22 lead at the break.
Beaver Dam scored the first seven points out of halftime to take a 29-27 lead with 15:51 on the clock. That was the last lead of the game for the Golden Beavers as Seymour outscored them 23-15 the rest of the way.
Seymour gets back to Bay Conference play when Xavier comes to town on Jan. 3. It will be a battle for first place with Seymour at 4-0 and Xavier at 3-0.
The non-conference win against Beaver Dam should be helpful for the conference schedule for the Thunder players.
“I think it’s a confidence builder,” coach Murphy said. “We’ve won four in a row. I think our kids are starting to believe and kind of coming of age a little bit. This is just big heading into the second half of the season.”