SERENA — It looked as if fans here at Serena High School were in for an exciting second half of basketball as the Huskers and Seneca Fighting Irish had battled tip-and-tuck in the opening 16 minutes, with the visitors holding just a two-point advantage at the half.
However, Seneca — which led 11-7 after one quarter and 19-17 at the break — bolted out of halftime on a 13-0 run, holding Serena scoreless the opening 4:32 of the third quarter and eventually wrapping up a solid 52-37 victory.
Ben Krause came off bench to lead Seneca (10-5) with a game-high 16 points, while Chase Hauch added 13 points and five rebounds.
"We spent a lot of time as a coaching staff during the first half on how we wanted to attack Serena's zone," said Seneca coach Russ Witte. "We also had some foul trouble in the first half, and both our point guards as well. We thought if we could get the ball to the middle of the zone with more of a guard-oriented kid, so we put Tommy (Cahill) there at the high post and Chase down low. That was really the biggest key for us in the second half.
"We also were more effective with our ballpress in the second half. We gave them a lot of second and third opportunities there in the first half and really only gave up a couple jumpshots. We did a good job of cleaning that up in the second half."
The third-quarter blitz started with a hoop by Cahill just 30 seconds in, which was followed by four points from Chase Hauch and six more from Krause to make it 32-17. A pair of free throws by Serena's Rogers snapped the run, but Seneca closed out the period in complete control — finishing up with a offensive rebound basket courtesy of Trey Hauch.
The Huskers committed 8 of their 27 turnovers in the third quarter and were just 1 of 7 from the field, while Seneca popped in 8 of 16. The hosts were only able to cut the disadvantage down to 13 the rest of the way.
"It just looked like they were playing harder than us," Serena coach Dain Twait said of the third stanza. "They were getting offensive rebounds, and we were turning the ball over. ... I mean, I don't even know if we even had a good look at the basket the first four minutes of the third quarter. Their physicality was also ratcheted up a notch in the second half, and we just didn't handle it very well.
"We fought our way back into the game in the second quarter, but they just busted things open coming out of halftime."
A old fashioned three-point play and layup from Cahill plus a triple by Krause helped Seneca out to the early first-quarter advantage. Two free throws each by Krause, TJ VanNess and Hauch pushed the margin to 17-9 with 4 minutes, 14 seconds on the second-quarter clock.
Serena battled back to tie the game at 17-all after five points from Pusateri, a layup from Ivan Stafford and free throw by Baker, but Seneca's Trey Hauch converted a short jumper in the final moments to give his club the aforementioned two-point halftime lead.