Just when things seem to be going your way, everything can turn on you in the blink of an eye, and exactly that happened on Friday when the Seward boys lost 40-29 to Grace Christian at Sullivan Arena in the consolation bracket of the Class 3A state basketball championships, ending their season short of a Saturday game.
Senior Jeff Buchanan led the Seahawks with 13 points, and Matt Moore had five points but grabbed seven rebounds.
The game featured a Jekyll and Hyde flow, as the Seahawks had a phenomenal first half, shooting 9-for-14 from the field (64 percent) en route to a 23-15 halftime lead, but suffered a 1-for-18 second half (5 percent) shooting performance.
“At halftime, I told them if you want to play one more day, you’ve got to play harder,” said Grace coach Chuck Boerger. “They put the pressure on them a little more. The first half we were playing a matchup zone, and our kids just didn’t have any rhythm going, and that’s why we decided to play full court.”
Grace outscored Seward 14-2 in the third quarter, and 25-6 overall in the second half.
“It’s hard to win ballgames when you only score six points in a half,” Seward coach Curtis Berry said. “I don’t know if you can attribute it to any one thing, it’s a combination of a lot of things. I felt that we got a little flat, a couple of guys felt that they were getting in our heads a little bit, stuff like that. When they start thinking about the possibility that it might slip away, it usually does.
“All in all, I’m very proud of these boys. Obviously, even to get here is good, and the opportunity to do this just builds for the future. I don’t think there’s a lot of people who thought we were going to get here.”
After scoring only four points, by design, in Thursday’s loss to Bethel, Buchanan upped his game Friday by hitting five of six shot attempts in the first half for 11 points, and as the clock ticked down, it looked like Seward would play another day.
With 1 minute, 32 seconds, left in the second quarter, Seward senior Jon Thomassen sank a jumper to put Seward up 23-11. Thomassen ended up with only those two points.
Twenty-one seconds into the second half, Grace got a triple from Alex Fancher to put the Seahawks on their heels.
“That (3-pointer) might’ve helped it, but when we started going down and firing up shots and they started getting rebound after rebound, it kind of just lost it for us,” Thomassen said. “We tried to slow it down and control it, and we had an all right lead, and they started hitting shots and gaining tempo. I think we felt the pressure.”
The trey was the first of a series of shots that gave the Grizzlies the momentum they needed. Grace took the lead for good with a 3-pointer from Josh Laker with 2:52 left in the third, putting the Grizzlies up 26-25.
“They just sped up the game, and we got out of our game plan,” said Buchanan. “It was hard to control it. The shots just weren’t there.”
Grace continued to build its lead, hitting four 3s in the third quarter and ending a 22-2 run on a Luke Offord layup 6:22 from the end, and leading 33-25. Offord led Grace with 12 points.
The Seahawks also ended up losing one of their key players halfway through the fourth quarter, as Michael Marshall fouled out. Moore also found the exit near the end.
Seward didn’t convert a shot in the second half until 56 seconds left in the game, when Alex Pahno put one in for two.
“I thought this could have been a very winnable opportunity,” Berry said. “We had Grace, they doubled up, put the pressure on us, and they went on an 18-2 binge.”
The decision to use Buchanan’s shooting skills on Friday was simply due to that fact that Grace is a different team than Bethel, according to Berry.
“We always want to use Jeff, and yesterday was a strategic thing,” said Berry. “We were using him for a different kind of production. The game is always about points, but today was a different kind of matchup.”
“I don’t know, I just don’t think I had the same opportunities that I had in the first half,” Buchanan said of his performance. “It’s disappointing, but I feel good that we have a good underclassmen field that will have a good future. They should be good.”
Grizzlies 40, Seahawks 29
Grace 6 9 14 11 —40
Seward 9 14 2 4 —29
GRACE (40) — Offord 4 4-6 12, Osborne 0 0-0 0, Johnson 1 1-1 4, Thomas 0 0-0 0, Karlberg 3 1-2 8, VanderWeide 0 0-0 0, Fancher 2 0-1 5, Laker 2 0-0 5, Markel 2 2-2 6. Totals 14 8-12 40.
SEWARD (29) — Buchanan 5 2-2 13, Marshall 1 0-0 3, Pahno 1 0-0 2, Thomassen 1 0-0 2, Berry 0 0-0 0, Wolfe 0 0-0 0, Ivy 0 0-0 0, Moore 1 3-6 5, Jackson 1 1-1 4. Totals 10 6-9 29.
3-point goals — Grace 4 (Johnson 1, Karlberg 1, Fancher 1, Laker 1); Seward 3 (Buchanan 1, Marshall 1, Jackson 1).
Team fouls — Grace 11; Seward 13. Fouled out — Marshall, Moore.