The Seward boys basketball team fell out of the running for the Class 3A state championship after a 42-32 loss to Bethel on Thursday at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Seward never led, but at the same token never trailed by much either. Bethel’s biggest lead was only 11 points, midway through the third quarter.
“Our game plan was that we wanted to be able to contend in the fourth quarter, and if we’re down by 20, there’s no way to get that back,” Seward coach Curtis Berry said. “If we’re down by 10, that’s three possessions, more or less, and we accomplished that. In fact, we were down by five once or twice.”
Matt Moore led the Seahawks with 13 points and five rebounds, and Jon Thomassen was able to grab eight rebounds.
Bethel, the top seed from the Western Conference, was led by Theodore Naneng with 16 points and eight boards, and Brett Smith was perfect from the field with 10 points.
One of the more surprising stats, however, was that Seward’s top guard, senior Jeff Buchanan, only managed to score four points, and was held scoreless with only two shot attempts until 2 minutes, 43 seconds, left in the game. Berry said that was by design.
“That was purposeful on our part,” Berry said. “We wanted Jeff to control the tempo and the flow of the game. We started out like that from the beginning, and I don’t know the last time that Bethel was held to only 40 points. They’re an 80-point team, and that was our game plan. If we could keep it close, we had a chance.
“They have infinite scorers, and Jeff was in that position purposefully, and he kept the ball in his hands and keeping it away. He sacrificed his points so we could control the tempo.”
Bethel coach Dave Cronk said his team knew who to look for, and when the Seahawks forced the Warriors to slow their roll, Bethel was able to overcome it.
“We’ve played Seward a couple times so we know what they like to do, but they changed things up obviously,” Cronk said. “They slowed it down some to try and get us off our game, so that threw us off a little bit, but we were able to adapt and I told the guys to keep pressuring the ball.
“We knew he was one of the guys to look out for, and we told our guys to just stay in front of him and keep him out of the lane, and if he gets by someone to help out.”
After a first half that saw Seward suffer from 12 turnovers, compared to only four from Bethel, the Hawks trailed 20-13, close enough to rally for a win.
“It was like a weird vibe, we went into the locker room (at halftime) and it felt like we were losing,” Cronk said. “They just weren’t happy with the way they played, and we could get up and down the floor better than that, and shoot better. We had a poor shooting night, we missed about four easy layups, and it was like, ‘Come on you guys, you got to put those in.’”
The Warriors added a few quick points early in the third to pad their lead to 10, but Moore and Thomassen began to find their stride, orchestrating a 7-2 run to close the gap.
Naneng bumped Bethel’s lead back up to end the third, and in the fourth quarter, Seward tried one last-gasp effort to catch them when Buchanan scored his first points of the game with 2:43 left. The layup left Seward trailing 33-28.
The loss drops Seward into the consolation bracket, where it has one chance to extend its tournament to a third day with an 8 a.m. matchup with Grace Christian at the Sullivan Arena. The winner of that game plays for fourth place Saturday.
“We’re coming out of this game happy that we exercised our role, even after a loss,” Berry said. “Like the Bethel coach said, this could’ve been a different game if we hadn’t had some of those turnovers that they had easy on us. We had a couple of easy baskets that we missed, and they had some too, but that’s just basketball.”
Warriors 42, Seahawks 32
Bethel 10 10 11 11 —42
Seward 9 4 9 10 —32
BETHEL (42) — Naneng 5 5-6 16, Miller 1 2-2 4, Romer 3 0-1 7, Corbett 0 0-0 0, Strickland 0 0-0 0, E. Hoffman 1 0-0 2, Koester 0 0-0 0, T. Hoffman 1 1-2 3, Smith 5 0-0 10. Totals 16 8-11 42.
SEWARD (32) — Moore 5 3-4 13, Wolfe 3 2-2 8, Buchanan 2 0-0 4, Marshall 0 0-0 0, Pahno 0 0-0 0, Thomassen 2 1-2 5, Berry 0 0-0 0, Ivy 0 0-0 0, Broughton 0 0-0 0, Jackson 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 6-8 32.
3-point goals — Bethel 2 (Naneng 1, Romer 1); Seward 0.
Team fouls — Bethel 11; Seward 13. Fouled out — none.