BYRON – The way the Newman Comets came storming out the gate Wednesday night, it would have been hard for anyone to slow them down. The Seneca Fighting Irish found that out firsthand.
Newman hit 10 of its first 15 shots of the game and blitzed the Irish in the first 10 minutes en route to a 46-27 victory in a Class 2A Byron Sectional semifinal.
"At first, I think we were all surprised with how quickly we got the big lead," freshman Noah McCarty said. "We expected them to come out and play a lot like us. But we started clicking right away on both ends of the court, and it felt good to build the lead and play from ahead the whole way."
The Comets (25-4) closed the first quarter on an 11-2 run, then scored four of the first six points of the second. McCarty's putback of his own miss with 3:37 left before halftime put Newman ahead 23-8, and the Irish were forced to play catch-up all night.
"They hit shots early and got the momentum, and we got caught chasing them the rest of the night," Seneca coach Russell Witte said. "We knew they played a lot like us: get a lead, then slow things down. Once they got ahead, we couldn't get back on the other end of it."
Newman, which shot 43.6 percent (17-for-39) for the game, never led by fewer than 10 points after racing out to the initial lead. The second, third and fourth quarters all consisted of 3-minute droughts during which neither team scored, and that played right into the Comets' hands.
Newman held Seneca to 21.3 percent shooting (10-for-47), and forced eight of the Irish's 11 turnovers in the first half. Even with senior forward Kyle Moore in early foul trouble, the Comets didn't even bat an eye.
"We know we're deep, usually a lot deeper than the other team," A.J. Sharp said, "and we used that to our advantage again tonight. We have so many subs off the bench who we trust fully to get the job done for us."
McCarty was that guy Wednesday. The 6-foot-5 freshman forward finished with six points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and ate up crucial minutes throughout the first half to keep Moore from picking up his third foul before the break.
Seneca (25-5) had its chances in the third quarter, but couldn't get anything going offensively. The Irish shot a dismal 4-for-28 (14.3 percent) in the second half, and missed 10 of their 12 3-pointers. While they forced six Newman turnovers and only committed three, the lack of scoring – particularly from star Conlan Callahan, who was held scoreless while battling the flu – erased any chance of a Seneca comeback.
"We had open looks, we just couldn't finish them," Witte said. "The team that makes more shots is always going to win, and tonight, it was Newman."
The closest the Irish came to the Comets after the original double-digit deficit in 6 minutes into the game was nine points, 17-8, to open the second quarter. Newman led by at least a dozen points the entire second half.
"It was nuts how hot we started, and our defense was just suffocating," Newman senior Nic Miller said. "We were nervous coming out, because we didn't practice [Tuesday] because of the snowstorm. It had been a while since we had touched a basketball, but the way we played early on, it didn't seem to matter."
Sharp (14 points), Miller (10) and Moore (10) all scored in double figures, and Lucas Terveer and McCarty both added six points. Miller grabbed nine rebounds, and Moore had eight boards, two assists and two blocks. Sharp, Micah Trancoso and Nate Terveer each dished two assists, and Lucas Terveer nabbed three steals for the Comets, who will play undefeated Winnebago for the sectional title at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Alex Bott paced Seneca with 8 points off the bench, while James David and Chris Lee scored six apiece. Callahan had a team-high five rebounds, and Seneca had just seven assists and three steals.
"We really played as a team tonight, on both offense and defense," Moore said. "We played harder, our intensity was higher, and we were more physical tonight on both ends of the floor. We had a lot of guys step up and make plays, and all those things made all the difference."
"We executed so well, and everybody came to play," Newman coach Ray Sharp added. "That was a very intelligent game, in terms of basketball IQ, and I can't ask anything more of these guys than they gave me tonight."
Class 2A Byron Sectional semifinal
Newman 46, Seneca 27
Star of the game: Noah McCarty, Newman, 6 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Key performers: A.J. Sharp, Newman, 14 points, 2 assists; Nic Miller, Newman, 10 points, 9 rebounds; Kyle Moore, Newman, 10 points, 4-for-4 FGs, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks; Alex Bott, Seneca, 8 points off bench
Up next: Class 2A Sectional final, Newman vs. Winnebago, 7:30 p.m. Friday