3A boys basketball: Defending state champion Metamora too much for L-P in sectional semifinal

Cavaliers bow out at 23-9

L-P's Seth Adams eyes the hoop as Metamora's Tyler Mason defends during the Class 3A Sectional on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 at Pontiac High School.

PONTIAC – Looking for its first sectional victory in 31 years, the La Salle-Peru boys basketball team ran into a juggernaut Tuesday in defending Class 3A state champion Metamora.

Led by 6-foot-8 Iowa recruit Cooper Koch and featuring a starting lineup with four players 6-4 or taller that could score inside or shoot from the outside, the Redbirds scored the first 12 points of the game and rolled to a 69-37 victory in a Class 3A Pontiac Sectional semifinal.

“They’re a great team,” L-P coach John Senica said. “They shot lights out in the first quarter, first half. We didn’t shoot well and they did. That put us in a real big hole.

“We had a really difficult task tonight. We knew that. I wasn’t expecting them to shoot the percentage they shot, but I’m proud of my kids because they didn’t give up.”

Koch scored in the post, drained a 3-pointer and notched a three-point play on the first three possessions to help Metamora get out to a 12-0 lead.

The Cavaliers finally got on the board when Josh Senica caught an inbounds pass and got to the basket with 4:49 left in the first quarter.

“I thought we had a lot of great looks, honestly,” John Senica said. “We ran our offense. We missed a lot at the rim. I don’t know if it was intimidation or nerves or what. We had a lot of open shots that we just couldn’t make. They’re big. They’re quick. They play good defense. But we did have a lot of good, open looks that we just couldn’t capitalize on.”

L-P had a surge at the end of the first quarter. After falling behind 18-2, the Cavs scored on their final three possessions, including a 3 by Senica with less than a minute left, and trailed 23-10 after one.

The Redbirds began to pull away in the second quarter.

After Eric Sotelo drove for a bucket with 6:26 left, L-P did not make another field goal, managing just a free throw each from Senica and Mikey Hartman for the remainder of the half.

The Redbirds, meanwhile, scored 20 points during that time behind four 3-pointers – two each from Koch and Matthew Zobrist – and a dunk off a long pass by Koch to build a 45-14 lead at halftime.

Koch had 19 points at the break and finished with 21, while Zobrist buried four 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 14 in the half and 20 points for the game.

Metamora led 61-26 at the end of the third quarter and the clock ran for the entire fourth.

Josh Senica led the Cavaliers with 18 points, while Seth Adams added nine.

The Cavaliers finish the season 23-9.

“They did everything I asked them to do,” John Senica said. “They played hard. I’m proud of every one of them. They gave everything they had all year, and I think it shows with the record we had.

“I want to thank all the L-P super fans, the La Salle-Peru and surrounding area that supported us. I want to thank all the parents. I want to thank everybody who was involved in our program. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”

The loss ended the careers of Senica, Adams, Jack Jereb, Brendan Boudreau, Andrew Bollis, Brady Romagnoli, Bobby Baldin and Nolan VanDuzer.

“They’re a special group,” John Senica said. “I coached some of these kids from fourth or fifth grade. It’s pretty tough to let go. They meant a lot to the program.”

L-P will return Hartman to the starting lineup along with several others who received significant playing time, including Sotelo and Nicholas Olivero.

“I think we have a bright future,” John Senica said. “We have a couple starters and kids coming up from the sophomore level. Hopefully, we’re coming back. Season’s over, but we’re going to go right back to work.”

The Redbirds (30-4) will face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Kankakee and Richwoods in the title game at 7 p.m. Friday.

L-P super fans cheer on the Cavaliers as they play Metamora in the Class 3A Sectional on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 at Pontiac High School.