By Greg Bates
SEYMOUR – With his starters having an off-night shooting, Seymour boys’ basketball coach Bobby Kuchta went to his bench for a spark.
The Thunder’s role players answered in a big way.
Pace Jefferson scored nine points, and Mason Pautz added eight points, as the bench pumped in a combined 23 points.
Seymour’s defense did the rest, holding down Green Bay East’s high-powered offense, as the Thunder pulled off a 40-38, Bay Conference victory Tuesday night.
East — which played the night earlier, scoring an 80-69 victory over Green Bay Southwest — lost for the second time this season.
“We told our guys, ‘We’ve got to take advantage of when they’re playing back to back,’” Kuchta said. “We did. They missed lots of shots. That’s the way we play – it’s low scoring and we grind it out. We’ve been playing well on defense. They average 74 and we held them to 38. (I’m) proud of the guys.”
Usually a strong shooting team, East hit only two 3-pointers in the game, finishing less than 15% from beyond the 3-point line.
The game was played at Seymour’s pace, which is slow and methodical to get shots.
“(East) was frustrated,” Kuchta said. “Nobody wants to play defense for a minute and pass it around 20 times, so that’s the way we’ve been playing. Most of the time, we’ve come out on top in those close games.”
Red Devils guard Ryan Sweeney, who scored 33 points the previous night, was held to a season-low 10 points on three made field goals.
“We bought in and closed gaps,” Seymour guard Gunar Weyer said. “Our game plan was (to) slow down Sweeney, and we did that.”
Weyer, the Thunder’s leading scorer this season at 14.5 points per game, was held to eight points.
Tru Cornell hit three 3-pointers and had nine points for Seymour.
It was Seymour’s bench that stole the show.
Pautz, who came into the game with eight points all season, scored eight points on 4-for-7 shooting.
“Our bench stepped up because we started slow,” Weyer said. “We were down at least 10, and we came back and had energy.”
Seymour (8-8 overall, 4-4 Bay) trailed 12-2 seven minutes into the game.
The Thunder finished the first half on a 14-6 run, as Cornell hit a 3-pointer to pull them within two, 18-16, at halftime.
After East (12-2, 4-2) increased its lead to three, Seymour went on an 18-6 spurt.
Sam Daugherty nailed a 3-pointer to put the Thunder up 34-27 with 7:49 remaining.
East’s Bill Felix, who scored a game-high 15 points, put in six straight points to make it a one-point game at 34-33.
Seymour bumped its lead up to five, 38-33, after a Weyer 3 and a free throw from Jefferson with 2:07 left.
Oliver Killian hit a 3-pointer with 44 seconds on the clock to pull East within two.
The Red Devils got a steal and set up their offense to potentially win the game or send it into overtime.
The ball was swung around to Killian, who put up a 3-pointer that rimmed out.
Seymour’s Daniel Inman pulled down the rebound with 0.6 seconds remaining.
“That ball was halfway in and popped out,” East Head Coach Rick Rosinski said. “I told the kids, ‘That shot goes in, you’re celebrating right now.’ We got a good look. We couldn’t ask for more than that, but it didn’t fall. It wasn’t our night.”
The Bay Conference standings remain tight after first-place West De Pere fell to Menasha 59-58 Tuesday.
East is sitting two games back and hosts Green Bay West Saturday, Jan. 29.
Seymour has won seven of its last 10 games and will get a shot at getting its record over .500 for the first time this season.
“It was huge to get the conference win,” Weyer said. “We play Shawano Friday to go back-to-back conference this week — looking for a 2-0 week.”