The loss to Batesville proved a wake-up call for the reigning Hoosier Hills Conference champions.
Seymour needed to make some changes immediately, so the Owls responded to the adversity with a swift force.
After falling to the Bulldogs on Nov. 15, which dropped them to 2-2 on the season, the Owls girls basketball team rattled off five straight wins to improve to 7-2.
Story continues below gallery
“The day after we lost to Batesville, coach came in and gave us a toughness sheet,” Owls senior forward Kayla Griffin said. “It told us that we kind of weren’t tough enough to be a good team. We took it to hard and changed our attitude to become a tough team.”
Senior guard Lauren James also has noticed a shift with the team.
The team has refocused on their three goals: go undefeated at home, win the HHC and win a sectional title.
“Practices have been different,” James said. “Before, sometimes you could tell that we were kind of going through the motions. After Batesville, we realized if we wanted to go somewhere in the (postseason) tournament we need to practice with purpose and take every drill seriously.”
In the winning stretch, the Owls picked up key Hoosier Hills Conference against Floyd Central and Jennings County, took down Jackson County foe Brownstown Central, beat Bloomington South in overtime and handed Rusvhille its first (and currently only) loss of the season.
Despite the loss to Bedford North Lawrence, the HHC isn’t out of reach for the Owls.
With Bedford North Lawrence losing to Jeffersonville two weeks back, the Owls can at least win a share of the HHC if they win out in conference play.
Seymour coach Jason Longmeier said that tactical changes have been made on both the offense and defense.
“I think that we’ve kind of gotten back to what is going to make us successful,” Longmeier said. “Looking back at that Batesville game — and even the Silver Creek game (58-53 Seymour), which we were lucky to get out with a win — we were playing too loose and with too much freedom.
“We were taking too many quick shots and not allowing the offense to work. Our shooting percentage wasn’t very good because we were putting up shots too quick. We’ve really focused on that and getting good stops on the defensive end. I think that’s what was the difference against Floyd, especially in the fourth quarter at the end of the game.”
The Owls are currently averaging 54 points per game while giving up 46.
While James and Griffin are scoring most the points, averaging 17 and 11 points per game, fellow seniors Katie Suits and Sarah Benefiel also have played well in recent games.
“I think that Sarah, early on, felt like she needed to score a little more early on than she needed to,” Longmeier said. “She has settled in to her role a lot. I think, defensively, Sarah has been one of our lockdown kids. We’ve asked a lot of her in the past couple weeks, and she has done that. She has also gotten open looks and hit some really big shots for us.
“Who we’ve really been pleased with is Katie Suits. She has kind of been an unsung hero for us. Every time she has been called upon, she has done more than excellent. She always does what we need her to do, and I think defensively she has been tremendous.”
At the start of this season, the Owls replaced three graduated starters with underclassmen, and more than one factor contributed to the somewhat rocky start.
Last year, the IHSAA bumped the winter season back to accommodate the basketball state championships, thus interfering with the tail end of the fall sports season.
A handful of key players missed practices at the beginning of the season before finding their basketball legs.
“Not only are they young, but most all of them are multisport athletes,” Longmeier said. “Almost every one of our varsity players is playing another varsity sport. Sarah (Benefiel) and Ashton (Chase) came from cross-country, and cross-country went to state — that’s two weeks where we were practicing without Ashton.
Griffin came from soccer and (Makenna) Fee played volleyball. I think that also factored into the slow start. We knew it was going to take us a little more time to get each person comfortable with what each of their roles a and what we’re expecting from them.”
The road ahead doesn’t get easier for the Owls, but James said they welcome the challenge.
Tonight, they travel to Heritage Christian, the reinging Class 3A state champions.
The Owls play at Madison for an HHC contest Saturday and host Columbus North on Tuesday.
They then travel to a new tournament on their schedule at East Central in Guilford.
That tournament, on Dec. 29 and 30, will boast a handful of strong programs: Rushville, Hamilton Heights, East Central, Danville, Wapahani and Jac-Cen-Del.
In previous seasons, the Owls played in a round-robin style tournament in Bedford.
“It’s going to be a test for us — and that’s what we wanted,” Longmeier said of the holiday tourney.”We didn’t feel like we were getting that at Bedford. We were going to Bedford and played two or three games. When you’re only playing that much and not for a trophy, it almost feels like summer. We wanted to get away from that, we want to play for something where you win or you’re done.”
After break, they play at Columbus East and travel to the Class 3A runners-up from 2015: North Harrison.
“I think we need to focus on rebounding a lot,” James said. “If we can hold teams to one shot per possession, that will be a big thing for us down the stretch. We’ve added some zones to accommodate for some teams that we can’t man-up well against. That works really well for us offensively, and we put in some more sets and motions.”
As the season nears the halfway point, Griffin said that if the Owls can keep a mental edge they will continue to win games.
“I think toughness and the will to win will make the difference,” Griffin said. We need to be tough every game and believe that whatever happens: we will not lose.”