By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY — Sam Daugherty will always remember his first varsity start for the Seymour boys’ basketball team.
The senior — who struggled shooting coming off the bench in the first two games of the regular season — scored 10 second-half points and helped the Thunder erase a 15-point deficit to host Green Bay Southwest.
Taking the biggest shot of his basketball career, Daugherty drained a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to give Seymour a 61-59 victory Tuesday, Nov. 30.
“It’s insane,” Daugherty said about the game-winning shot. “It’s a team game, and I don’t want to put it on the last shot. I want to give it to my teammates on that. We fought back. We were down by 11 coming into the second half, and we fought back.”
Seymour trailed 59-55 when junior point guard Jaylen Wilbert-Bell hit a 3-pointer with 10.5 seconds remaining to pull the Thunder within one point.
Southwest’s Connor Pytleski was fouled with 6.4 seconds left and had a chance to make it a three-point lead with two free throws.
In the 1-and-1, Pytleski missed the front end, and the ball hit the floor and was grabbed by Seymour’s Nathaniel Krull.
He threw a pass to Wilbert-Bell near half-court.
Wilbert-Bell spotted Daugherty camped out in the corner behind the 3-point arc — which is his favorite spot to shoot on the court.
“I wanted to space out to the corner because the time was running low, and I wanted to possibly get a quick shot like what happened,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty launched the ball in the air as the horn went off.
“I knew before I shot it that it was going in,” Daugherty said. “You practice that shot so many times that it’s muscle memory. I wanted that shot.”
After the ball went through the net, Daugherty was mobbed by his teammates and classmates who rushed the floor from the nearby student section.
“It was crazy,” Daugherty said. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life.”
The Seymour bench also frantically raced over to join the celebration.
“I was jumping, and I went too far out on the court,” Seymour Head Coach Bobby Kuchta said. “I was excited in the moment.”
The win was Seymour’s first of the season in three attempts.
The game was Green Bay Southwest’s first of the year.
The Trojans missed two critical free throws and a chance at a third in the 1-in-1 in the final 25.4 seconds that could have iced the victory.
“We had lots of opportunities to close the door and didn’t take advantage of it,” Southwest Head Coach John Polkowski said. “Give credit to Seymour for battling and taking it from us. At the end of the day, we feel like we defeated ourselves at the same time.”
With the game tied 11-11 in the opening half, Southwest (0-1) went on a 20-5 run to take a 31-16 lead.
Seymour (1-2) responded with three straight 3-pointers — two by Gunar Weyer — to get back in the game.
Down 11 at halftime, Seymour kept chiseling away at its deficit.
Wilbert-Bell sank a pair of free throws to cap a 9-2 spurt to shrink Southwest’s lead to 38-34.
The Trojans’ advantage ballooned to nine, but again, the Thunder had an answer.
Daugherty hit his first 3-pointer to tie it at 46-46 midway through the half.
Southwest’s Braydon Schoonover-Vivians converted a basket with 58 seconds on the clock to make it 56-52.
In a wild last minute of action, Seymour had to commit four fouls to get Southwest into the bonus to shoot free throws.
Seymour played more soundly in the second half to pull off the victory.
It shot 50% (13-for-26) from the field, compared to 36% (9-for-25) in the opening half.
“We cut back on our turnovers,” Daugherty said. “We were stronger with the ball — we had only two second-half turnovers. We took care of the ball, and that’s what gave us the ball.”
The underdog Thunder shocked its first team of the season but probably not its last.
“I tell our kids, ‘That’s kind of who we are this year, the underdogs,’” Kuchta said. “Lots of teams won’t expect much from us because we’re small, and we lost so much from last year. Nobody knows who we have, but we’ve got that scrape and claw and grind until the end. That’s what it took tonight, right until the last second.”
Wilbert-Bell scored a game-high 16 points for Seymour, and Daugherty added 12 points.
“Pace Jefferson made some big plays in the post and got some offensive boards and some and-1s,” Kuchta said. “We needed Nate Krull, a junior. Dane Swenson came in for a few minutes. Jaylen, Sam and Pace led the way for us tonight when Gunar didn’t have his best night. That’s good. We’re a little more balanced this year.”
Southwest was led by Jaicee Foster with nine points.
Coach Kuchta said the win can be a big momentum swing for his players after losing the first two games of the season by an average of 23½ points.
“Hopefully, it shows us what it takes to get a win,” he said. “Every game is going to be like that. We’re not going to blow anybody out. We’re limited in some areas. We’ve got to grind and get good shots on offense. It shows us exactly what we need to do for 36 minutes to get a win.”