The old saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” could easily describe the Seneca boys basketball team as it readies to begin the 2022-23 season.
The Fighting Irish finished last season 23-9 overall — falling to then No. 3 state-ranked El Paso-Gridley in the Class 2A Wilmington Regional title game — while also ending 6-2 in Tri-County Conference action, finishing second in both the regular-season standings and the league’s tournament.
Coach Russ Witte, who begins his 14th season leading the Kelly Green and White, feels like followers of his squad will get much of the same quality and pace of basketball they are accustomed to seeing in recent seasons past.
“I feel we have players that can get out and go, and that want to get out and go,” Witte said. “We lost 23 points per game and two really good shooters in Noah Quigley and Zach Peifer to graduation, so we are going to have to figure out a way to replace that. We were able to really stretch the floor against teams last year. Now, we still have guys who can shoot it, but it comes down to if we can shoot it at a decent clip or not consistently.
“As far as defense, we are still going to be Seneca as far as trying to use our defense to create offense. If we can play solid defense, force turnovers and get deflections, we’re going to get it and run.”
Witte returns three regular starters and a pair of spot starters form a season ago.
Junior forwards Lane Provance (6-6) and Kysen Klinker (6-4), as well as sophomore point guard Paxton Giertz (6-0), are expected to be counted on for a lot this year. Senior guards Calvin Maierhofer and Braden Ellis (when he returns from a knee injury suffered in football), as well as junior forward Josh Lucas, sophomore forward John Farcus and potentially freshman guard Brady Sheedy also figure to be key contributors.
Giertz scored 11.4 points per game, Provance 6.4 (6.7 rpg) and Klinker 3.9 (4.9 rpg).
“Last year Paxton set the school record for assists in a season, which when you think back at some of the players that have played here like Garrett Callahan and Seth Evans, that’s a pretty amazing mark he surpassed, and throw in on top of that Paxton was just a freshman. That being said, Paxton is going to have to take on more of a scoring role this year for us.
“Lane is going to be the X-factor for us. He’s going to play some at guard as well as in the post, and I feel will be a matchup nightmare for teams if he can get both parts of that game figured out.
“We’ll also be looking for another solid year from Kysen. While Calvin was our sixth-man last year, he was that glue kid that is going to work his butt off and give you everything he’s got each and every time out. But we are going to ask him to step up even more this year.”
Rounding out the roster for the Irish will be seniors Dalton Degrush (G) and Dominic Traina (F), juniors Kenny Daggett (G) and Sam Kleich (F), sophomore Grant Siegel, and freshman Cameron Shirley.
“Like any season, if you win a Thanksgiving tournament, that’s great. If you win a Christmas tournament, that’s fantastic. If you win a conference tournament or regular-season championship, that’s super. But for us, we want to be back in a game like we were with El Paso-Gridley, a regional championship game, and have a shot of grabbing some hardware to hang on the wall,” Witte said.
“I think we should be an exciting team to watch play the game of basketball.”
Seneca opens at its own Turkey Tournament on Tuesday against Somonauk in a rematch of last year’s title game — one won by the Irish in the final seconds.