Chris Hastings isn’t happy with the two losses his Seymour High School varsity boys’ basketball team suffered at last week’s Walnut Grove Holiday Classic.

But he’s not disappointed, either.

“These are games that ultimately make us a better team,” the seventh-year head coach said. “Although we ended the tournament with a pair of losses, they came against a pair of large Class 4 schools that have very good teams.

“A year ago, we won three games on the back side of this tournament. But it’s much more satisfying to be playing with the tourney’s best teams in the final four on the winner’s side despite a couple of close losses.”

For a team with postseason aspirations, Hastings said he welcomes the challenge of quality competition.

“These are games that Class 2 schools often don’t get to play ... where you’re taking on a quality Class 4 opponent,” he noted. “We had our chances to win both games, especially so against Forsyth, and Forsyth ended up winning the (tournament’s) championship.”

Seymour enters the new year with an 8-3 record after wins in the tournament’s first two rounds against Fair Play and Macks Creek, respectively.

In the semifinals, the Tigers fell to Forsyth 52-49.

The Tigers dropped the event’s third-place game to Hollister by a 57-49 count.

“We’re a better team because of this tournament,” Hastings said. “You only get better when you’re playing good teams and competing. And there’s no doubt that we were competitive against Forsyth and Hollister.”

Tigers win two games

In the tourney’s first-round game played on Wednesday, Dec. 22, Seymour cruised to a 73-30 victory over the No. 15 seed, Fair Play.

That set up a matchup last Monday, Dec. 27, against the seventh-seeded Pirates of Macks Creek, who entered the contest with a solid 8-2 mark.

From the opening tip, Seymour held a lead. 1941!

The Tiger advantage was 15-10 after one quarter.

Seymour’s lead was 31-18 by halftime.

With 5:01 to play in the third quarter, the Tigers led by a 37-22 count.

Then Macks Creek rallied, closing the frame’s final five minutes with a 15-2 run that reduced the Seymour lead to only two points at 39-37.

“I felt we began coasting early in the third quarter, and we let them creep back into the game,” Hastings said. “Before we knew it, we had a close game on our hands, and Macks Creek battled us until the end.”

Seymour won 57-54.

The Tigers didn’t surrender the lead in the fourth quarter, although the Pirates did cut the Seymour lead to one point on two occasions.

“This game woke us up,” Hastings said. “We learned that we have to keep focused for the game’s full 32 minutes.”

Senior forward Bryson Benson was the Tigers’ offensive leader with 17 points and 9 rebounds.

Adding 16 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds was classmate Payton Bryant, a 5’8” guard.

Junior Dylan Henry, a 6’5” forward, had 13 points and 7 rebounds.

Junior Kason Richards produced a complete game with 4 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists.

Bill Daily, a 5’10” junior guard, had 3 points.

With 2 points each were senior Ivan Whited and junior Chade Noble.

Noble led the Tigers with 6 assists.

Pair of tough defeats

Seymour’s victories in the tourney’s first two rounds put the Tigers in the semifinals of the 16-school event, where the Tigers took on third-seeded Forsyth on Wednesday, Dec. 29.

Hastings said that despite the losing effort, it may have been the best game his ballclub has played this season.

“It’s the most engaged we’ve been all season,” he said.

“We executed the game plan flawlessly. In the end, it just came down to hitting shots, and we didn’t hit enough. Had we just made a couple more shots in the course of the game, we win this one.”

In the 52-49 defeat, Seymour jumped out to an early lead.

After Forsyth scored on its first possession, the Tigers on a 13-0 run and led 13-2 with 3:39 to play in the opening frame.

The rival Panthers rallied to close the quarter, and Seymour held a 15-10 advantage after one stanza.

However, Forsyth had the game’s momentum. Seymour was cold offensively as the Panthers pieced together several baskets over the next eight minutes and led 23-20 at halftime, closing a 12-minute rally that saw Forsyth outscore the Tigers 21-7.

“We were in good shape at the half,” Hastings said.

“For them to have that kind of a run over 1-1/2 quarters with us only trailing by three points was a positive thing,” he noted. “Bottom line, we were in the game.”

After three quarters, Seymour trailed 37-32.

The game remained close in the final frame.

A Richards basket gave the Tigers a 38-37 lead with 4:51 to play, but on the next possession, a Forsyth foul was followed by a technical foul that changed the momentum with 4:39 to play, giving the Panthers a 40-38 advantage that they wouldn’t surrender.

Over the next four minutes, Seymour cut Forsyth’s lead to one point on four occasions, with the last coming at the 25.5-second mark on a Henry layup that made the score 48-47. In the game’s final 20 seconds, the Panthers used a layup and two free throws for the fi nal margin.

Noble led the Tiger offense with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists, while Bryant added 11 points and 3 rebounds.

Richards had 9 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists.

Henry scored 8, while Benson had 6 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals.

Junior Eli Nunnally rounded out the scoring with 2.

Hastings said cold shooting ultimately doomed his squad.

The Tigers shot only 37 percent (20 for 54) from the field, including 2-for-15 accuracy from three-point range.

“We played well enough to win,” he said. “Give credit to Forsyth for making some big plays late and especially for hitting several clutch free throws.”

Last Friday, Seymour took on Hollister in the tourney’s third-place game, falling 57-49.

The Tigers led 16-15 after one quarter.

By halftime, Seymour trailed 26-24.

Hollister took a 46-35 entering the fourth quarter, but the Tigers came back and cut the defi cit to as few as two points with two minutes to play.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Hastings said.

“We cut (the lead) to two and three points late, but we just couldn’t tie it or take a lead.”

Hollister ended the game with a huge rebounding edge of 32 to 18.

Bryant was Seymour’s offensive leader with 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

Noble added 11 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds.

Benson had 8 points and 3 rebounds, while Henry scored 7 points.

Richards had 5 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.

Daily and Nunnally rounded out the scoring; Daily had 3, while Nunnally had 1 point.

This week, the Tigers are competing in The Seymour Bank Winter Classic, where Seymour is seeded first in the eight-school event.

Tournament action started Monday.

For more on the tourney, see the bracket and story in this week’s newspaper and online.

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