SENECA — In the second half Friday night of a Newton County clash between the home Seneca Indians and the visiting Diamond Wildcats, the experience of the Indians took over and the Indians outscored Diamond 32-15 after halftime en route to a 56-44 win.
In a story straight out of Dickens the sports writer, it was truly a tale of two halves, as Diamond used a 18-9 second quarter to build a 29-24 halftime lead.
Seneca, who started the season 6-1 and lost tough games against Nevada and Miami earlier this week to begin a new year 0-2, seized some momentum back headed into Big 8 Conference play starting later this week against McDonald County.
Diamond, meanwhile, was denied a chance to end a losing streak dating back to early December, a losing streak now extended to 10 games for the young Wildcats.
“We were frustrated the first half,” Seneca head coach Will King said. “Give Diamond credit for it, but I thought we got out of what we do a lot of times and we were taking too many chances on defense and we were not running offense. I think we were thinking ourselves a little too much and taking some bad shots, so we talked about that at halftime, about setting our offensive patterns in whatever we were in. Give them credit. They changed defenses whether my bigs were in or not in and give them credit on that, but I think second half we finally got into some patterns.”
“We preached all week,” Diamond head coach Jacob Srigley said, “that despite our lack of size, we still want to get the ball inside. We have some undersized guys that can do some things. We’re pretty familiar with these guys (Seneca), we play them twice a year and see them in the summer. We know what to expect, but we had our most success when we were getting the ball inside and were able to relocate for our shooters on kick-out threes. That’s what got us into trouble in the second half. We went away from it and didn’t get to the foul line.”
Diamond worked on getting Seneca senior big man Cameron Brattin in foul trouble, limited to only two points in the second half after he picked up his fourth personal foul with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining before the fourth quarter.
However, fellow senior big man Gavin Dunnam proved a pain for the Wildcats in the second half, as he scored 10 of his 17 points after halftime.
“Gavin Dunnam is a difficult player for teams,” King said, “because he does so many different things. You look at the stat sheet at the end of the night and he fills it with so many different areas. He’s a big guy that handles the ball a lot better than you think he can handle it. Yeah, he’s always a big force for us and he does pick up a lot of slack if Cameron’s not in the game as well. He was big and that’s kind of his role. He’s one of our leaders and he’s going to step to the challenge.”
Gavin Clouse and Jake Thurston hit a couple 3-pointers for Seneca in a 19-point third quarter for the Indians that saw them go ahead 43-37 entering the fourth quarter.
Clouse finished with 10 points on the night and Brattin finished with nine, seven in the first half before foul trouble limited him after halftime.
Hunter Renfro, Christian Maturino, Trey Coose, and Colton Long each netted seven for the Wildcats, who did not have a double-digit scorer.
Seneca — 7-3 overall — returns to action Tuesday against Purdy and then opens Big 8 play Friday with the Mustangs of McDonald County, who started playing better basketball in the Neosho Holiday Classic with two wins in that 16-team tournament.
Diamond, meanwhile, dropped to 2-11 and the Wildcats look to end their 10-game losing streak Tuesday on the road against Pierce City. Diamond plays conference foes Pierce City and Miller on the road before a home game January 16 against Newton County rival East Newton.
SENECA 56, DIAMOND 44
Diamond 11 18 8 7 — 44
Seneca 15 9 19 13 — 56
DIAMOND (2-11) — Hunter Renfro 7, Noah Hubbard 3, Colby House 2, Colton Long 7, Ben Moreland 5, Blake Savage 4, Trey Coose 7, Christian Maturino 7, Chad Stephens 2.
SENECA (7-3) — Jake Thurston 7, Brett Reeves 6, Gavin Clouse 10, Isaiah Grotjohn 1, Preston Armstrong 6, Cameron Brattin 9, Gavin Dunnam 17.
3-point goals — Diamond 5 (Renfro, Hubbard, Moreland, Coose, Maturino), Seneca 5 (Clouse 2, Thurston, Armstrong, Dunnam).