BRAIDWOOD — Seneca fulfilled a season-long goal Friday night, and became the first top seed to take care of business in the Interstate Eight Conference Tournament.
With a 50-34 victory over third-seeded Westmont in the championship game at Reed-Custer, the Fighting Irish became boys tournament champions for the first time. They are the first No. 1 seed in the tournament's seven-year history to finish first.
"I couldn't be prouder of what this team has accomplished, and I couldn't be prouder to be a part of their lives. They're a special group," Seneca coach Russell Witte. "Other than a hiccup at (the Plano Christmas Classic), they've accomplished everything they've set out to do."
The Irish fell behind 5-0 early as they started 0-for-4 with two turnovers. They came back to tie the game at 9-9 by the end of the first and led by as many as eight points in the second quarter, which Chris Lee opened with a conventional three-point play and another short basket. A Conlan Callahan three and a Schrag jumper put the Irish ahead 21-13, but the Sentinels scored the quarter's final seven points, with Jean Pietrzak providing five.
The third quarter, however, was all Irish. Brian Bergeson started a 13-5 run through the period with a layup off a no-look pass from Jimmy David. Schrag later hit a pair of three-pointers, with David also making one. Westmont was 1-for-11 from the field during the frame.
"I think it was us executing offensively" Schrag said of the third-quarter run. "We were able to battle through sets. And what we were doing defensively helped."
Before Callahan went to the line with 3:24 left in the game, the Irish had attempted one free throw. He made both of his tries at that point as the Sentinels went into the bonus, and the Irish ended up being 11-for-15 on free throws as they continued to add to their lead.
"I think the free throws down the stretch were huge," Lee said. "(Winning the championship) feels great. ... It was one of our goals to do this, and tonight we went out and executed."
Schrag finished with 17 points to lead all scorers. Lee totaled 12 points and eight rebounds, which led the Irish on a night where they out-rebounded Westmont 29-16.
Callahan and David joined Schrag on the All-Tournament team, as did Kris Pierce and Jean Pietrzak of Westmont and Coal City's Nick Peters.