Boys basketball: Big quarters from Seneca’s Giertz, Morris’ Wheeler in 63-54 Irish win

Fighting Irish score nonconference home win

Seneca’s Paxton Giertz (at right) fires a no-look pass while being defended by Morris' Caston Norris (3) Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, in Seneca.

SENECA – Fresh off fairly deep football playoff runs, the boys basketball teams from Morris and Seneca – both of which have reason to expect pretty good seasons this winter – are playing catch-up.

It was visiting Morris, however, which had to play catch-up on the scoreboard during Tuesday night’s visit to Seneca after recently honored 1,000-point scorer Paxton Giertz poured in 17 first-quarter points for the Fighting Irish. Despite a 16-point second quarter and ultimately a 36-point game from Morris’ Jack Wheeler in answer, Morris never managed to catch up in a 63-54 loss to the Fighting Irish.

“What’s frustrating is, the entire scouting report was ‘make somebody else beat us and make sure that we shade to [Giertz] and force him to get rid of it,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. “Seneca’s had a hot start in all five games, and it felt like if we could weather that first storm we could battle back a little bit.

“I thought we showed some fight ... but we have a lot of improvement to do.”

Giertz was limited to just one third-quarter bucket after his hot start, finishing with 19 points. He was aided, however, by key points down the stretch from teammates Lane Provance (10 points on the night), Kenny Daggett (five points) and sophomore shooting guard Brady Sheedy (team-high 23 points, including nine in the fourth quarter).

“Paxton is a great player, obviously,” Sheedy said, “but if he starts to cool down, we all need to bring him up. For me, my role is shooting ... and I give [the credit for turning back Morris when it built momentum] to Coach. Coach is always on us for effort. He wants the best out of us, and when we start to slow down, he gets on us and we turn it back on.”

Brady Sheedy

Wheeler’s 36 points made up two-thirds of Morris’ scoring on the night. He was the team’s leading scorer all four quarters, with AJ Zweeres adding 12 points before fouling out with 4:36 to play.

“We need to be more dynamic offensively,” Blumberg said. “That only four of us scored is a little concerning. But that’s the second time this group has played together on the floor ever, including summer and this season.”

Sparked by Giertz’s early shooting, Seneca led 24-11 after one quarter. Morris – led by Wheeler’s eight 3-pointers on the night – climbed back as close as five points (32-27) in the second quarter, six points (39-33) in the third and six again (56-50) on a contested, banked-in Wheeler 3 with 3:43 remaining in the fourth.

The visitors weren’t able to draw any closer, though, with a Sheedy take to the hoop with 2:40 to play answering Wheeler’s 3-pointer a minute earlier and starting a 5-0 Fighting Irish run that all but put the game away for Seneca.

“Our M.O. every game this year is we come out like gangbusters, and then our second quarter we just take a hiatus,” Seneca coach Russ Witte said. “I would have said the last couple games it was fatigue. I don’t know if that’s the case right now, and in this game it as more we just took our foot off the gas a little bit defensively. We left Wheeler open for two or three of those 3s, and after that, it’s game on. ...

“But I will say, down the stretch Lane and some of our other players made some good adjustments and got up in his grill a little bit more ... and I’m very proud of the way Brady Sheedy shot the ball.

“I’m very pleased that we got the ‘W,’ pleased with the start, pleased with how we extended [the lead again] in the third quarter ... and sealed things off at the end.”

The Fighting Irish (4-1) visit St. Bede Academy on Friday.

Morris (2-3) is scheduled to host Sandwich on Friday.

Morris’s AJ Zweeres and Seneca’s Grant Siegel battle for a rebound  in the 2nd period Tuesday at Seneca.
J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. is a graduate of Streator High School, Illinois Valley Community College and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who is some 24 years into an award-winning sports journalism career.