Boys Basketball

Boys basketball: Huge third quarter locks up Seneca rout of Lowpoint-Washburn

Hot shooting, 17 L-W turnovers lead to Fighting Irish blowout win

SENECA – The Seneca Fighting Irish were not perfect in the third quarter of Friday night’s Tri-County Conference battle with a young Lowpoint-Washburn club. They did miss five shots and had a turnover.

Other than that, they were just about as perfect as a team could be.

With the game already pretty much in hand at the half, the Irish exploded in the third quarter for 35 points, making 16 field goals in their 21 attempts at one end of the floor and forcing 17 Wildcats turnovers at the other to open up a 54-point lead on its way to an 84-28 victory on their home floor.

“But balanced scoring like that, we’ll take that all day long. It’s nice to see the kids who are our leading scorers say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna distribute for a while and give other kids some touches.’ We haven’t moved it that well in a while.”

—  Seneca boys basketball coach Russ Witte

Riding the emotion of a large crowd on hand to see the presentation of an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association plaque commemorating the Seneca program’s milestone 1,500th win achieved earlier this season, Seneca scored the game’s first 19 points and forced 10 L-W miscues in the opening period.

After it widened that margin to 39-13 at the break, the Irish (10-4) then put up that remarkable third quarter. They finished the night shooting 51.5% (33 of 64) with 10 players scoring, nine of those posting between seven and Noah Quigley’s game-best 14 points to move the hosts to 10-4 on the season, 3-0 in the TCC.

“I asked the kids after the game what the difference was between the first half and the third quarter, and they all said the same thing: We upped our defensive intensity, and we had way more kids sharing the basketball,” Seneca coach Russ Witte said. “Making the extra pass tonight was huge for us. Hopefully that’s something we can continue doing from here on out.

“Lowpoint-Washburn has some kids who are pretty decent players, but it’s hard when we’re as active as we are defensively and are pushing the basketball and you only have eight, nine players, and they’re playing two games and the point guard gets hurt. That would take the wind out of any team’s sails.

“But balanced scoring like that, we’ll take that all day long. It’s nice to see the kids who are our leading scorers say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna distribute for a while and give other kids some touches.’ We haven’t moved it that well in a while.”

In fairness to the Wildcats, their eight-player roster includes only one upperclassman, 6-6 center Hunter Jolliff, and was hampered by having played only two other varsity games this season, playing the entire JV game beforehand and having its only point guard, sophomore Baylor Steffen, go down to injury late in the prelim.

Kody Knecht tossed in 10 points, and Jolliff grabbed six boards, but the ‘Cats finished with 38 turnovers, a 39-16 deficit on the glass and a 26.4% (9 of 34) night shooting the basketball.

As the Irish often do, they had six players score before the visitors got their first points on a 3-pointer by Bricen Wilson with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in the first stanza.

Surging to a 26-point lead at the half, Seneca in the third forced turnovers on the Wildcats’ first nine possessions, 11 errors in the first 2:46 of the half and 17 in the quarter. Noah Quigley had seven points, and brother Owen Quigley and Calvin Maierhofer each added six as the lead ballooned to 74-20 heading to the fourth.

“That was all inexperience,” L-W coach Zach Weber said. “With the roster we have, just one upperclassman, we’re experiencing a lot of growing pains, but the kids work hard. After that first-quarter blitz – that’s a good name for it – our kids calmed down and started playing better basketball, but they hit us with that third quarter, and unfortunately heads started to drop at the end, but give [our team] credit.

“They were scrappy to the end.”