SENECA – School was in session in the Seneca High School Gym on Monday night, and while the experienced Serena Huskers taught the lessons, the inexperienced Seneca Fighting Irish learned them.
The veteran Huskers squad didn’t have one of its best games of the season in the nonconference encounter, but it did play well enough in spurts – including a key surge at the end of the second quarter – to take down the eager but less battle-tested Irish, 48-36.
With the score tied at 12, Serena’s Jenna Setchell drained a pair of 3-pointers and Katie Baker sank another in between them to spark a 13-0 rally spanning the half to take control of the win.
Baker finished with 14 points and Reese Cole 11, seven of hers coming in the fourth quarter. Paisley Twait contributed nine points, a game-best seven rebounds and a solid defensive effort on the Irish’s Kennedy Hartwig to help lock up the Huskers’ 17th win in 19 games.
The Irish, meanwhile, played pretty well, showing virtually none of the panic that had put them behind Serena 16-2 after one quarter at the Stone Seed Tournament in late November. Hartwig finished with a hard-earned 14 points for team-high honors, while Zoe Hougas and Faith Deering each added six points. Allie Arwood and freshman Alyssa Zellers scored five apiece as the hosts fell to 10-8 on the season.
“We just came out not ready to play today, without the energy and the intensity that we need from the get-go,” said Serena coach Jim Jobst about his team’s uncharacteristically demure play for the first 12 minutes of the game. “It took us a while to find it, and once we did, we only had it for little short stretches. Fortunately, that was good enough. The stretch in the second quarter when we hit three 3s in a row, I think, was huge for us tonight, that and the three stops in a row at the other end. That’s where the momentum changed.
“We can always get better. We need to clean up the press a little bit and work a little on the half-court defense, but we haven’t had a practice since way before Christmas, so hopefully now we’ll get a chance to work on those things this week.”
After a so-so start by both teams, Serena showed signs of life with a 6-0 burst to take a 12-6 lead, but Seneca then got hoops from Deering, Zoe Hougas and Hartwig to tie it again. That’s where the Huskers took control.
Setchell canned a 3 from the left wing and Baker one from the left corner before Setchell connected from the same spot as her first. Cole then assisted on a Makayla McNally basket and, after the break, another McNally bucket widened the gap to 25-12.
The Irish hung tough, climbing back to within 27-22 on three free throws and a converted steal by Hartwig. However, Baker hit three tosses and Twait passed to Cole for an easy basket to get the lead back to double digits, a margin that ballooned to as many as 18 in the fourth quarter.
“I felt our girls performed admirably,” Seneca coach Brian Holman said. “We’ve had COVID, so we’ve haven’t really done anything for at least 10 days, and you put that on top of a 16-2 Serena team, considering that, without practice, we played pretty well. There was just a stretch at the end of the second quarter where they just got us. That’s what good teams do, they make runs. ... We did a good job in the third quarter, cutting it to like five or six, but we let them make another run, and you just can’t do that against good teams like this one that Jim has.
“That’s something we’ll learn. We have a lot of talent, but not a lot of experience and that shows in times like that … but I don’t have a single bad thing to say about how my team played. I’m proud of them.”