RICHMOND, Ind. — Seton Catholic played four games in two days in late December at the Bob Wettig Memorial Tournament. Then, it had some time off — 27 days to be exact.
The Cardinals already had a break scheduled after the holidays, and they were going to come back Jan. 14 with a game against Liberty Christian. That game got postponed, leaving them with a near-month-long gap between games with no room to add another one with a still-full schedule.
The Cardinals’ extended time away showed on the court Tuesday in their 78-66 loss to Blue River Valley.
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“If you’d have asked me at the beginning of the game, I would have told you how excited I was for this one. Afterward, it’s a little different feeling,” head coach Josh Jurgens said. “We played hard. We weren’t in game shape, and that’s on me. We weren’t ready for them, and that’s on me. They outplayed us, and that’s on me. Their two best players had career nights, and that’s on me. I’ll wear it. I’ll take this one. I have no problem taking it. The kids played hard. We just weren’t ready.”
Jurgens was confident and hopeful going into the game, but he also wasn’t surprised by the outcome. That is, he wasn’t surprised his players looked a step slower than usual. Anytime you have a break from game action, he said, you’ll need time to adjust upon returning. After an unexpected month-long break, however, your next performance becomes unpredictable.
Us while everyone else has games 🥺 pic.twitter.com/f65hcQPsc2
— Seton Catholic Basketball (@SCiBelieve) January 6, 2022
“It’s hard to be in game shape when you haven’t played a game,” Jurgens said. “I don’t care what you do in practice, it’s hard to keep the kids in the game with the adrenaline, the stop-and-go, the crowd, the referees. Everything is different in a game. You can’t simulate that in practice.”
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While the team as a whole didn’t look quite right, two Cardinals had career nights: sophomores Braiden Hogg and Andrew Warner. Hogg, the night before his 16th birthday, scored a career-high 27 points to lead the team. Warner made the most of his first start with a personal-best 15 points, making all three of his 3-point attempts and leading the team with four steals.
Warner scored the game’s first points just 10 seconds into the game with a three from the right corner. After that, he could tell that game had potential to be big for him.
“I just worked a lot on my shot, and coach told me to have confidence,” Warner said. “Most people say if you see one drop at the start, it’ll be easier to get going the rest of the game.”
Without Warner tripling his season scoring average and Hogg doubling his, Tuesday’s game could have gone a lot worse. Senior Dorian Hill also chipped in 16 points, but, outside of those three, there was next to nothing in offensive production.
Jurgens said it was refreshing to see Warner play as well as he did, especially given he’s been struggling to make shots consistently lately.
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“Andrew played lights out. I thought he gave us the best minutes of anybody all game,” Jurgens said. “He’s been a confident player the whole 27 days we’ve been shut down in practice. He’s been a different guy, and he played like it. He played with urgency, and he played with confidence. We’ve just got to get everybody going.”
Sophomore Mason Harvey, the Cardinals’ leading scorer, was held scoreless, and a lot of shots from others looked forced. Multiple times, especially late in the game, someone would drive to the basket and either dribble right into a jump ball or throw up an out-of-control shot. Jurgens has said all season that his team thrives in controlled chaos. He said there was plenty of chaos Tuesday, but it was not controlled.
There’s still a month of games left to play in the regular season. While Jurgens said the Cardinals did not look great Tuesday, the next month will be critical in working on what needs to be fixed before sectionals.
“We need it by March 1,” Jurgens said. “I don’t care if it happens before that. I just want to make sure we’re playing our best ball on March 1. We can go 0-9 the rest of the way. As long as we play our best game on March 1, I’m good.”
Seton will continue its run of five straight home games Jan. 27 against Burris.
This article originally appeared on Richmond Palladium-Item: IHSAA boys basketball: Seton Catholic's downtime shows in loss