PRINCETON — The Bureau Valley boys basketball team spent nearly 13 ½ minutes in the second half working to get back into Friday’s Class 2A Princeton Regional championship.
After the Storm did, Seneca needed just 15 seconds to take back control.
After BV overcame a 19-point halftime deficit to tie the game with 3:31 to play, the Fighting Irish countered with a five-point possession just 15 seconds later that took away BV’s momentum and sparked Seneca to a 59-54 regional-championship victory.
“One play kind of turned a lot of things around,” BV coach Jason Marquis said. “We dug ourselves into a hole, and it takes a lot of energy and a lot emotion to climb out of that.”
With the Storm trailing 32-13 at halftime, BV scored nine of the game’s first 11 points to begin the second half and carried the momentum into the fourth quarter, where BV junior Parker Neuhalfen tied the game at 44-44 on a three-point play with 3:31 remaining.
However, Seneca took back the lead on the next possession when senior star Conlan Callahan hit the go-ahead 3-point shot to give the Fighting Irish a 44-41 lead.
As Callahan’s shot was in the air, BV was called for a foul off the ball that sent Seneca’s Alex Bott to the free throw line for bonus free throws. Bott made both to give the Fighting Irish a 49-44 advantage.
“They tied it up and we ran an (isolation) for Conlan and had a nice five-point play, and that was huge,” said Seneca coach Russell Witte, the former Hall coach and IVCC men’s assistant. “That got us settled down a little bit. We’re fortunate, and that’s all I can really say because they kicked our butt the second half.”
Despite allowing the five-point possession, the Storm hung around, and a bucket from senior Ryan Young cut the deficit to 49-46 with 1:55 to go.
However, Seneca responded with a 6-0 run to take a 55-46 lead with 34.9 seconds to play.
Down, the Storm failed to give in as a Neuhalfen bucket and back-to-back 3-pointers from Young kept BV within striking distance, but the Fighting Irish made enough free throws down the stretch to hold off the Storm.
“(Assistant coach Preston) Jones and I talked earlier (Friday) that it’d probably be even in the fourth quarter and whoever hit that next shot was where it was going to fall,’” Marquis said. “(Callahan) hit it, and we just couldn’t quite climb out of that hole once they got up by five in that one possession.”
In the end, the Storm couldn’t fully overcome a poor first half.
Seneca raced to a 15-8 advantage after the first quarter and a 32-13 lead at half.
BV managed just four field goals in the first half, including just one field goal in the second quarter.
“I think the kids were frustrated (in the locker room at half),” Marquis said. “I think for a little too long in the first half they questioned themselves and whether they were supposed to be here. I think it took them a halftime to put it into perspective that they had earned the right to play in this game and they were capable of competing.”
The Storm proved that in the second half as they scored four field goals in the first 2:58 of the third quarter and scored 41 second-half points.
However, in the end, Seneca made enough plays down the stretch to earn its second straight regional title.
“Thank God the clock ran out,” Witte joked.
Neuhalfen led BV (20-12) with a game-high 20 points, while Young added 12 points and junior Josh Mead had 11 points.
Callahan scored a team-high 19 points and senior Austin Applebee grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for Seneca (24-5), which advances to Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Class 2A Bureau Valley Sectional semifinal against Newman.
Note: Neuhalfen, Hall’s Austin Schmitt and Princeton’s Garrett Duffin advanced in the 3-point contest.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.