NORTH CRAWFORD - The North Crawford boys basketball team had a strong finish to the 2020-2021 season.
The Trojans got two wins and an almost victory in the local WIAA Regional.
“We kind of peaked at the right time,” North Crawford coach Chris Wettstein said when it was over.
North Crawford started at home against Cassville with a very solid 70-40 win.
The leading scorer in the game, as is often the case, was Stephen Munson, who scored 21 points. Junior guard Keegan Bender scored 14 points and was a perfect 4-4 from beyond the arc.
Trojan senior guard Quentin Lathrop scored 13 points He also did an outstanding job defensively, holding the Comets’ leading scorer Robbie Roe to just eight points.
Cassville’s biggest mistake was allowing Munson and Lathrop to drive the baseline for layups.
Junior post Sever Stovey chipped in eight points and senior Devlin Smith scored seven.
Rounding out the scoring for the Trojans were Garrett Finnell with three, while Deekin Smith and Satchel McClurg each scored two points.
The next stop for the Trojans in the regional was Seneca. During the regular season, each squad won their away game against the other team. Two weeks ago, it was Seneca’s turn as they defeated the Trojans at North Crawford.
However, last Thursday night it was another game.
Things started well for the home team and Seneca led 28-19 at halftime. Then, the Trojans got hot in the second half and finished big for a 49-43 victory.
North Crawford’s Stephen Munson came alive in the second half, scoring 11 of his 15 points. Junior Sever Stovey, who struggled in the post in the regular season meeting two weeks ago-scoring only two points, came alive Thursday controlling the paint and scoring 17 points.
The Trojans were also able to keep two potent Seneca scorers in check. Holding the team’s leading scorer Ashton Swanson to just seven points and Kadin Wallin to two points. Swanson did lead his team with eight rebounds and five assists
However, Seneca was poised to win the game at the end. With 3:30 to go, Seneca stole the ball twice and Brock Wall scored on a layup, while Evan Payne hit a three-pointer. Seneca led 43-38 with 1:50 left.
With a lot of effort, two points from Stovey, a steal and some free throws from Lathrop, things started to change.
North Crawford led 45-43 with 30 seconds to play. The Trojans iced the win with a pair of free throws from Lathrop. That was followed by two more free throws from Munson to seal the 49-43 win.
North Crawford had outscored Seneca 30-15 in the second half to climb back into the game.
Coach Wettstein again credited the sensational defensive effort of Quentin Lathrop who held Swanson to under 10 points.
Seneca’s Evan Payne led his team in scoring with 18 points and had five rebounds.
For the Trojans, Stovey led the team in scoring with 17 points, while Munson scored 15 points and led the team in assists with eight and Lathrop scored 14 and led the team in rebounds with six. Devlin Smith scored three points.
Rounding out the scoring for Seneca, Brennan Wallin scored seven points and had seven rebounds. Brock Wall scored five points, while Shawn Kirchhoff and Joey Oppriecht each scored two points. Kirchhoff also had four steals.
Trojan coach Wettstein viewed the teams as very evenly matched this season.
“I think if we played 10 games, we’d win five and they’d win five,” Wettstein said.
Seneca coach Boland was satisfied with a strong effort from his team this season.
"It was a very unprecedented and challenging season,’ Boland noted. “Our kids persevered, and showed great growth through the year, winning nine games in a row leading up to the tournament. I was very proud of their resiliency."
It all ended for the Trojans in Wauzeka on Saturday night, but it didn’t look like a lot of people thought it would look.
North Crawford put on a very strong performance against the heavily favored, undefeated Wauzeka-Steuben Hornets, but lost 56-49.
How strong were the Trojans in the regional championship? Well, they led at halftime by 11 points 31-20.
“We shot well and defended well,” Wettstein said of his team’s performance against the Hornets.
This time, Quentin Lathrop drew the defensive assignment of stopping high-scoring Gavin Ralph. North Crawford’s senior guard held Ralph to just 12 points.
Munson led the Trojans in scoring with 16 points and Lathrop scored 14.
Stovey scored seven points and Finnell had six points. Devlin Smith and Keegan Bender each scored three points on three-point shots.
So, what went wrong? The Hornets’ Nate Martin that’s what.
Martin played one of his best games ever it seemed.
How good was he? Nate Martin led all scorers with 21 points including hitting 5-7 three pointers.
“He just destroyed us,” Wettstein said later. “He doesn't make those shots we win. He kept them in the game.”
Wettstein said to defend against Ralph and others, Martin was left alone and he exploited it.
The Trojan coach had nothing but praise for the Hornets, who he believes could easily go to state tournament. They are currently ranked fifth in the state.
North Crawford finished the season in third place in the Ridge and Valley Conference behind Seneca by a game. The Trojans were 14-6 overall and 9-4 in conference. They had a two-week quarantine in which they couldn't practice. Immediately upon returning, they played Viroqua, DeSoto and Wauzeka-Steuben and lost all three games.
However, it was a very good season for North Crawford and Wettstein sees a lot of exciting basketball; at North Crawford in the coming years.“We’ve got a lot of good kids coming up,” the coach said. “Kids that are more committed and have a good understanding of the game.”