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Behind the 26 points and 17 rebounds of 6’3” junior forward Bryson Benson, the Seymour varsity boys’ basketball team cruised to a 58-44 victory over Verona last Wednesday, Dec. 30, to take seventh-place honors at the annual Walnut Grove Holiday Classic.

The 14-point win was the third consecutive for the Tigers of head coach Chris Hastings, who entered the tourney with a 1-5 record and exited with a 4-6 mark entering 2021.

The previous day, on Tuesday, Dec. 29, Seymour won a double-overtime thriller over Pierce City by a 51-47 count as the Tigers defeated the defending tournament champions.

In the 16-team event’s opener, Seymour, the 12th seed, narrowly fell to Conway, then rebounded with a lopsided win over Macks Creek in the first consolation-round contest.

The final two wins last week were notched with a small Tiger roster that included just six players.

Senior Evan Crump will be out for more than a month after surgery for a broken hand, while freshman Conner Young is out for an undetermined time with leg issues. For the Tigers’ final two games at Walnut Grove, sophomore Eli Nunnally was sick and unable to play.

“We’re playing with a thin roster, but I’m getting maximum effort from the boys,” Hastings noted. “To start the season, I had a varsity rotation of eight guys. Three of those original eight were out for the final two games at Walnut Grove, and we really got a great effort from (sophomore) Derek Akers, who stepped up and was our sixth man, giving us a lot of quality minutes.”

Hastings also praised the effort of Benson, who became a force in the post at the four-game tourney.

“In the four tournament games, Bryson averaged a double double ... averaging more than 10 points and 10 rebounds per game,” he said. “In the final game against Verona, he really stepped up and basically carried us. When you score 26 points and grab 17 rebounds, you’ve played great. That’s what Bryson did for us.

“If he continues to improve as the season goes on, we’ve got the ability to be a competitive team in every game that we play. To have a big guy in the post who can score in the post really opens things up for our shooters.”

Big win over Verona

In last Wednesday’s seventh-place game against Verona, Seymour jumped out to a 17-6 first-quarter lead, then saw the rival Wildcats mount an early comeback, tying the score at 24-24 midway through the second frame.

However, Seymour closed the half with an 11-0 run and led 35-24 at the half.

Seymour’s lead was 47-35 entering the fourth quarter.

“We did a lot of things well in this one,” Hastings said.

“Our defensive effort was good. We shot the ball very well ... we shot better than 50 percent from the field. From three-point range, we were above 40 percent.”

The Tigers out rebounded Verona 36 to 23.

Seymour also scored 32 points in the paint while Verona mustered just 18.

“It really was an almost perfect ending to a four-game stretch where I feel we’ve reset our season,” Hastings said.

“We entered (the tournament) down. We had lost a few of our games by lopsided margins. We’d played a lot of really good teams with a lack of depth.

“But we came to Walnut Grove and played four good games. Even in our loss to Conway, I felt we battled. We had chances to win it. The win against Pierce City was a really good win for us that we pulled out in double overtime.”

Benson’s performance paced the Tiger offense as he had 26 points, 17 rebounds and shot 12 for 20 from the field.

Junior guard Payton Bryant added 12 points and 5 assists, connecting on 2 of 3 three-pointers.

Adding 7 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists was 6’1” senior forward Brock Pearce.

Senior Nathaniel Hosiner and sophomore Bill Daily each scored 5 points. Daily added 7 rebounds and a team-high 8 assists, while Hosiner grabbed 4 rebounds.

Akers rounded out the scoring with 3 points.

Double-overtime decision

To advance to the seventh-place game, Seymour won a thriller Tuesday, Dec. 29, over Pierce City.

At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 36-36.

Neither team scored in the first overtime.

In the second overtime, Seymour won in a shootout, so to speak, outscoring the Eagles 15-11.

“Pierce City is a good team with a quality basketball program,” Hastings said. “Last season, they won this tournament and won a district championship, winning 23 games.”

The contest was nearly a statistical tie.

Both teams grabbed 34 rebounds — 22 defensive and 12 offensive.

Seymour had 15 turnovers; Pierce City committed 17.

The Tigers shot 32.6 percent (15 for 46) from the field, while the Eagles were at 26.2 percent (11 for 42).

Seymour hit 17 of 23 free throws (73.9 percent), while Pierce City was 18 for 26 (69.2 percent) from the line.

“This probably qualifies as our best win of the season,” Hastings said. “We beat a good team.”

Bryant led the Tigers’ offense with 18 points.

Daily added 15 points, while Benson scored 11 and had 8 rebounds.

Pearce had 4 points and team-high totals of 10 rebounds and 6 assists.

Hosiner chipped in with 3 points and 4 rebounds.

This week, Seymour is competing in The Seymour Bank Winter Classic, an eight-team event played at the Seymour High School gymnasium.

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