By FRED KRONER
The state’s second-ranked Class 3A boys’ basketball team ended Mahomet-Seymour’s season on Wednesday one win shy of earning a Sweet Sixteen berth.
Springfield Southeast topped the Bulldogs 59-45 in a sectional semifinal game at Decatur Eisenhower High School.
The teams were tied, 14-14, after one quarter and Southeast’s lead was 41-36 entering the fourth period.
The Bulldogs, who attempted just six free throws in the game, pulled within three points in the fourth quarter.
“Southeast tried to throw a knockout punch a couple times, and we came right back,” M-S coach Chad Benedict said. “The kids did a good job of hanging tough.
“The kids played hard and executed the game plan well. Against the second-ranked team, it was a two-possession game with 5 minutes to go.”
Seven of the Bulldogs’ 14 varsity players are seniors and four were in the starting lineup: Noah Benedict, Holt Campion, Josh Johnson and Cory Noe.
The other senior players are Brooks Coetzee, Ryan Emmerd and Jack Hubble. Manager Trevor Burgess is also a senior.
“It was a pretty special group of seniors,” Chad Benedict said. “Southeast pressed all 32 minutes and we only had 10 turnovers.”
Noe (16 points) and Coetzee (10 points) were the top M-S scorers in the finale. Grant Coleman scored seven points while Noah Benedict and Campion each added six points.
Campion pulled down a game-high seven rebounds. He and Noah Benedict handed out four assists apiece.
Wednesday’s game was also the final one for two varsity assistant coaches. Steve Kreps is retiring after 13 years in basketball. Ryan Martin is stepping aside after 11 years to accept an administrative position in the district for the 2018-19 school year.
“Their last game with us, it’s bittersweet,” Chad Benedict said.
The coaches talked in the preseason about the possibility of this being a “special season,” Chad Benedict said, but pulling off the fourth consecutive 20-win season and the third regional title in four years took some doing.
“We only had one player (Noah Benedict) start all 32 games,” Chad Benedict said, “because of injuries and illnesses.
“Our rotations changed a lot because of the health issues. The kids’ roles changed constantly. That can be hard on a team, but the kids got it together at the end of the year.”
M-S ended the season with a 21-11 record. Southeast carries a 26-3 mark into Friday’s sectional championship game against Springfield Lanphier (26-3).
The season is not over for one Bulldog. Junior Jack McHale has qualified for the three-point shooting finals, which will be held prior to Friday’s title game.