SENECA – Boy, when the Hall Red Devils decide to focus on something, there is apparently little that will stop them.
The undersized-but-athletic Devils managed to out-rebound its first three opponents – all of fairly equal size – at the 20th annual Seneca Turkey Tournament by a solid margin on their way to Saturday night’s championship contest.
But there, they took on an also undefeated but young Somonauk club that had four of its top six players standing 6-foot-2 or better, including 6-5 senior Liam Roberts.
Hall surged to a 20-11 first-quarter lead on a nervous bunch of Bobcats, then to hold them off crashed the boards and drove the lane for either points or trips to the free throw line to stay in control of an 82-62 title-game victory over Somonauk.
Tournament MVP Trez Rybarczyk netted 14 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, while teammates Bryan Fuentes and Tyvon Epps locked up all-tourney honors with 22 points and 11 points, respectively. All five Hall starters finished in double digits again, with Payton Plym contributing 15 points and nine boards and Cole Wozniak 14 points and eight caroms.
But balanced scoring was not the only key factor. The champs claimed their team’s first Seneca title since 2007 by posting a 47-32 advantage on the glass over the bigger ‘Cats and sinking 18 of 22 free throws to just 2 of 4 for Somonauk.
“The MVP feels good, but the win feels better,” Rybarczyk said. “The big thing was, we came out aggressively and just ran them, getting steals and executing on both ends, and getting ahead, that was big. They started hitting shots, but we stepped back up and just played our game.”
Fuentes tossed in 11 of his points and Rybarczyk eight of his while the nervous Bobcats went a chilly 2 of 10 with six turnovers, all in the opening period.
But Somonauk soon gathered itself and started making shots, including a putback of his own miss by Liam Roberts to cut the deficit to 23-20 and later a pair of three-pointers by Julio Salgado and another by Uriah Riffel kept them within five.
A bucket and two free throws from Payton Plym restored the Hall edge to 45-33 early in the third quarter, but a Liam Roberts deuce and treys by Alex Krejci and Brendan Roberts cut it back to 53-48 with 1:24 left in that stanza.
But Hall’s balance – which produced 19-of-33 shooting and a 27-13 surplus on the boards in the latter half – soon began trading three points for two, and that proved too much for the ‘Cats.
“At shoot around today, we talked about how we felt Somonauk — and I know (Friday) against Seneca was a wild game — had played harder than all three teams it had faced and that’s why they’re in the championship game,” said Hall coach Mike Filippini, “and that we had to play our hardest game to get past them.
“They’re big, aggressive and pesky, but I thought we did a good job on the boards in the first half and then did a good job getting to the basket. We didn’t shoot as many threes and worked the ball inside. On defense, we were getting a lot of tips in our zone, especially when we turned up the ball pressure.
“For Trez, the MVP was very well-deserved ... but we had three guys on the all-tournament team because we were unselfish. Again, I’m always bringing this up, but this was a team effort, in scoring, on the boards, on defense.”
Liam Roberts led the Bobcats with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Krejci, like Roberts an all-tourney pick, chipped in 12 points for Somonauk, which finished a chilly 36.1 percent from the field.
“We’re really young, and this is not only the first time in a tournament championship, but also the first varsity action for nearly everyone but Liam,” said Somonauk’s first-year head coach Curt Alsvig, “so this was a big jump for most of them. We got rattled right away, but we fought back and stayed after it, and we did that tonight.
“Rybarczyk is a terrific player and ball handler, and it’s tough to keep wraps on him. ... We came in wanting to make someone besides him and No. 2 (Epps) beat us, and we did that, too. They just had other guys step up and hit shots for them. And I don’t know what the numbers were, but they had to shoot phenomenally from the free throw line. We didn’t play that bad. Hall just played extremely well.”