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Irish bring top seed to Princeton

PRINCETON — The Seneca Irish (22-5) bring in the No. 1 seed to the Princeton 2A boys regional which starts Tuesday and coach Russ Witte knows what comes with it.

“With the No. 1 seed comes some added pressure about keeping the seeds true,” Witte said. “We will have to play hard every game to have a chance at repeating. Hall and Bureau Valley are very good teams and we will have to bring our A game to get through it.”

Hall coach Mike Filippini said the Irish are deserving of the No. 1 seed.

“They have 22 wins and played a very tough schedule,” he said.

At the same time, Filippini notes, “whoever wins this regional will have earned it. There’s no easy games.”

BV coach Jason Marquis adds, “It’s a talented field. Good mix of teams from the area with all the teams seemingly playing their best ball here of late.”

“I think it is a good group of teams. I think each game should be very competitive,” PHS coach Jesse Brandt said. “Hopefully we can use the home court to our advantage.”  

The Irish, the defending regional champion, await the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between the host Tigers (5-21) and Prophetstown (14-13). In the Prophets, the Tigers will find a team who has come on strong of late, including a 60-51 win over No. 3 seed Bureau Valley on Feb. 11.

“We have been believing in each other. The seniors are doing there best to keep their season alive and strong,” Prophetstown coach Cordell Juhola said. “Princeton will be a tough opponent. They will be playing on their home court and have a good coach. They are used to being successful in the postseason.”

Hall (17-10, 7-5 TRAC South) and Bureau Valley (19-10, 10-4 TRAC North) have had plenty of time to scout one another.

“We’ve known we would be playing Bureau Valley since about January so it comes as no surprise,” said Filippini, who took in the Storm’s contest Friday vs. Fulton with his family. “(Parker) Neuhalfen may be the best player in the regional so he will be a huge focus for us on the defensive end.”

Neuhalfen checks in with a near 18.5 ppg averaging after dumping in 21 points in Friday’s 68-60 loss to the Steamers. The Storm may be without junior forward Tommy Johnston (14.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg), who went down with a severe ankle injury in last week’s game with Newman. He was on crutches Friday, but says he will be ready for regionals

“It’s a very unfortunate injury for him, especially considering the timing but he is a tough, very dedicated young man. He’ll make every effort to get healthy,” Marquis said.

The Storm finished second in the Three Rivers North, the only team able to defeat state-ranked Newman in league play.

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