MANLIUS — Brad Groleau sat on the floor in front of the St. Bede bench stunned.
Bruins coach Mike Kilmartin hollered at the officials in protest.
The Seneca boys basketball team rushed the floor in celebration.
St. Bede’s season had come to a wild end after a controversial no-call.
With Seneca up by two points with 2.3 seconds left in Friday’s Class 2A Bureau Valley Regional championship, St. Bede’s Grant Bosnich inbounded the ball at midcourt opposite the benches.
With a chance to tie or win the game, Groleau came off a double screen and was to catch a cross-court pass in front of St. Bede’s bench.
As Groleau leapt to receive the pass, Seneca’s Peyton Schrag jumped in front of Groleau and tipped away the ball while sending Groleau to the floor.
The tipped pass allowed the final 2.3 seconds to run off the clock and sealed Seneca’s controversial 52-50 victory.
“It’s sad it comes down to one no-call,” said Kilmartin, whose team lost its second straight regional final. “You call (a foul at) any part of the game. How many times did (SBA senior post Joe) Pyszka get fouled and not go to the free throw line? He went (six) times.”
Groleau agreed he was fouled.
“It was basically just a double screen and if I was open we were going to get me the ball. If not, Damin (Smith) was going to fly to the ball,” Groleau said.
“I know the refs like to eat up their whistles with a minute left, but from what everybody saw in the stands and from what I saw, I jumped for the ball and (Schrag) clearly didn’t hit all ball. He definitely hit my body. We both went for the ball, but I think — if you go back to the film — clearly he hit me and knocked me over. I tried to sell it the best I could.”
Instead, the no call gave Seneca (25-4) the win and advanced it to Wednesday’s Class 2A Byron Sectional semifinal where it will meet Sterling Newman.
The no call also kept St. Bede (23-6) from winning its first regional title since 2000.
“That’s such a hard pass to make, and if you don’t make clean screens then it’s not an easy play,” Seneca coach Russell Witte said. “I know Groleau got knocked down, but we had the inside position. I know they will say what they will, but you’ve got to let the players make the plays.”
Unfortunately for the Bruins, that’s what Seneca did down the stretch.
Despite trailing for most all of the second half, the Irish finally tied the game at 50-50 after Seneca’s Conlan Callahan drained a 3-point shot with 1:53 to play.
After a pair of scoreless possessions, Pyszka was fouled with 46.5 seconds to go. However, the senior missed both free throws and Schrag grabbed the rebound.
Witte let his team rundown the clock, but instead of calling a timeout, he let his squad play.
It turned out to be the right call.
With Seneca having the ball in the corner, the Irish’s Chris Lee was left alone under the basket. Lee received the pass near the hoop and laid in the go-ahead shot with 4.5 seconds remaining.
St. Bede called timeout with 3.2 seconds left.
Out of Bruin stoppage, Witte called another timeout.
Finally, St. Bede inbounded the ball to Lucas at midcourt and the Bruins immediately called timeout with 2.3 seconds remaining, setting the stage for the dramatic final play.
“It’s a foul. He’s shooting two free throws,” Kilmartin said. “If he misses them, then I can’t say anything, can I? But as an official, you can’t not call it. I think if you asked (Seneca) if they thought it was a foul and they were honest, I think I know the answer.
“The one official kept saying, ‘Take a look at the tape, take a look at the tape,’” Kilmartin added. “Well, we’ll look at the tape. If I am wrong I am wrong, but I don’t think so.”
Pyszka finished with a team-high 15 points and seven rebounds for the Bruins, while Groleau added 11 points, including three key 3-pointers in the third quarter that put St. Bede back in front until the final two minutes.
Callahan scored a game-high 18 points for Seneca, while Schrag added nine points.
Note: Three area competitors advanced in the 3-Point Showdown. Hall’s Brett Fanning (11), Princeton’s Zach Hicks (9) and SBA’s Bosnich (9) advanced to Friday’s sectional competition at Byron, as did Seneca’s Brad Wyss (12).
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.