Coming off a tough Friday night loss to its county rivals, Seymour boys basketball coach Tyler Phillips issued a challenge to the team.
“Let’s see how mentally tough you are,” Phillips said.
The Owls passed Phillips’ test.
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Seymour (2-1) built a double-digit halftime lead en route to a 72-65 victory over the Grizzly Cubs (0-3) on Saturday.
The teams tied twice before back-to-back scores from Tiller Cummings gave the Owls an 8-5 lead with 3:47 left in the first quarter.
A 3-pointer by Blaine Wentzell and bucket from Reece Thomson then put the Grizzly Cubs up 10-8 with 1:56 on the clock.
The Owls’ Jack Roberts got a basket to go to tie the game at 10 at the end of eight minutes of play.
In the second quarter, Seymour outscored the Grizzly Cubs 22-10.
Seymour went on a 10-4 run by the 4:07-mark in the second quarter to lead 20-14.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Alan Perry and Max Otte extended the Owls’ lead to 26-16 at 2:41 before a trey from Tiller Cummings and and-one conversion from Perry put the Owls up 32-20 at the break.
Cummings, listed at 6-foot-6, led the Owls with 11 points and three blocks in the opening half.
Seymour exploited the Grizzly Cubs’ interior defense to put up points.
“We were willing to throw the ball into the block, and we’ve been hesitant to do that until tonight,” Phillips said. “Tiller rewarded his teammates when they threw it in there. I told our guards that that’s going to open them up. Once we threw it in to Tiller or Jack, that forced (Franklin) to collapse. We’re starting to learn that if the ball goes inside-out we’re going to be successful.”
The teams traded baskets out of halftime until a 5-0 run gave the Owls a 46-30 lead with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
At the end of 24 minutes, the Owls led 51-36.
While Franklin outscored Seymour 29-21 in the fourth quarter, on four made 3-pointers, the Owls didn’t allow the Grizzly Cubs to come within fewer than six points of the lead.
A basket by Zach Moore and free throws by Eddie Louden put the Owls up 72-62 with 11 ticks left before the Grizzly Cubs hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the game.
In a foul-heavy final quarter, the Owls shot 11-for-16 from the free throw line while Franklin was 5 of 7.
Perry led the Owls with 19 points and Cummings totaled 15. The Owls out-rebounded the Grizzly Cubs 34-24, with Cummings and Moore each pulling down 12 boards.
Wentzell led the Grizzly Cubs with 19 points.
“I thought we did well (defensively),” Phillips said. “A team like Franklin, that’s going to shoot from the outside and wants a high possession game, you’re not going to hold them in the 40s. That’s unrealistic: They’re too offensively talented. You take away the last two minutes, and I thought we did really well. We held them to zero offensive rebounds in the second half, which is unheard of.”
Phillips said he was pleased with how the Owls responded to the prior night’s loss to Brownstown Central.
“We had a mentally exhausting game on Friday,” he said. “Our thing was ‘don’t let Brownstown beat us twice,’ meaning don’t let that loss cost us a game (against Franklin) we’re very capable of winning. We knew when that first quarter was over that they were here to play and here to win. They were focused on tonight.
“I’m really proud of our kids, the resiliency on both JV and varsity. They could of rolled over and quit, but they didn’t. They answered the bell.”
The Owls will open Hoosier Hills Conference play Friday when they host Jeffersonville.