MOUNT VERNON — The Lamar Tigers built a 38-30 advantage late in the third quarter on the heels of a 7-0 run and the Seneca Indians could never catch up despite their valiant efforts during a 56-48 win Friday night for the Tigers in the Class 3, District 12 semifinals.
Seneca junior Gavin Clouse hit a 3-point shot for a 45-42 score with 2 minutes, 3 seconds in regulation, but the Tigers made their next three free throws for a 48-42 lead and the Indians could get no closer than five points the rest of regulation.
Seneca finishes its season 15-12.
“I thought the effort was outstanding all night,” Seneca head coach Will King said. “We talked about that in the locker room. So many plays, hustle plays, effort plays, loose ball plays, and there was many of them. I can think of one of them near the end, where Preston Armstrong dove on the floor here at halfcourt to give us another possession and they made a great block on the same play. Compliments to Tyler (Ryerson) and Lamar and the work they do, but man, I’m proud of the kids.
“We battled all year. We’re not the most talented team by any means. We don’t necessarily have a stand out. We just flat out battle … just so proud of them … good kids.”
During that 7-0 run, Ian Moore started it with a basket, then Travis Bailey scored his only two points of the contest and Parker King, who would take on a bigger role in the fourth quarter once the fouling began, scored his first three points to close it out.
Armstrong hit a trifecta to end the third on a good note for the Indians, but nearly two minutes into the fourth, King scored the first two points of the quarter on free throws and that established the tone for the rest of the contest.
“Lamar made some (free throws) down the stretch,” King said. “We needed them to miss. This game is crazy, every possession is so important, and we lost a few possessions there late in the third. We were running some triangle-and-2, which was successful for us, not that Lamar’s seen it all year long, but when they got enough of a lead, a two-possession lead, they could come out and hold it, we had to change things a little bit. Good job with them and it comes down to a few possessions here or there, and they were on top.”
Seneca loses five seniors, and the final game of the season is always the toughest for every team because it means the end for those seniors.
“You think about our two bigs,” King said, “who have started since their freshman year, so they’ve had four years of starting varsity basketball. Gavin Dunnam and Cameron Brattin, they’ve just had huge moments for us. Gavin Dunnam led us in scoring and was a big leader for us all year long. Of course, Cameron’s been a big force throughout his whole career on both sides of the ball.
“You have Brett Reeves, our most improved player, who this year had some big moments for us. Jake Thurston had some big moments for us, did some good things. Then you have Josh Caputo, who’s just your model kid, a great program kid, I truly care about a lot as well. Those five guys are special kids.”
For next season, the Indians should also return two starters in Gavin Clouse and Armstrong, as well as contributors Isaiah Grotjohn and Payden Armstrong.
“We’re excited about the future still,” King said. “Our program’s a family. This is my 14th year at Seneca, so it means a lot to me and my assistants. It’s just a special thing. We’ve got a bond. You mention those sophomores, it’s a good sophomore class, and Gavin Clouse is a junior coming back. Payden Armstrong was hurt, but he’s coming back. I think we have a good mix coming back.”
On Friday night, Preston Armstrong led the Indians with 16 points, while Dunnam finished with 15 for a strong inside-outside duo. Clouse added seven and Brattin six.
Landon Hardman and Moore led Lamar with 13 and 12 points, respectively, Moore accumulating his points before fouling out with 1:21 remaining on the clock, just 13 seconds after Moore put Lamar up 48-42 on a free throw split.
King and Truman Caderly added nine and seven points, respectively, for the Tigers, who swept a pair of games from Seneca this season.
LAMAR 56, SENECA 48
Seneca 10 13 10 15 — 48
Lamar 13 9 16 18 — 56
SENECA (15-12) — Preston Armstrong 16, Gavin Dunnam 15, Gavin Clouse 7, Cameron Brattin 6, Brett Reeves 2, Isaiah Grotjohn 2.
LAMAR (17-10) — Landon Hardman 13, Ian Moore 12, Parker King 9, J.D. Bishop 8, Truman Kaderly 7, Case Tucker 5, Travis Bailey 2.