BRAIDWOOD — When the 19th Annual Braidwood Shootout tipped off on Friday afternoon, the Seneca Fighting Irish had entered action with high hopes. After all, the locals had gone 22-1 in the four previous shoots they had entered — beating every team from Illinois along the way — and winning three of them.
“We’ve done a lot. We went 4-0 at Clifton Central. We went 11-0 at Monmouth and won that shootout. Went 4-0 at Purdue and won their shootout, then went 3-1 at Vincennes. So we’ve been playing well,” Seneca coach Russell Witte said. “We’ve shown what we are capable of. A lot of players have made big strides from last year to this summer. It kind of gives us an idea of the things we need to work on moving forth.”
Over the weekend, things didn’t go as Seneca had hoped, however, as it watched as three Interstate Eight Conference schools finished ahead of the Irish. Reed-Custer won the shootout by beating Kankakee in the championship 80-73, Plano won the third-place game in a run-away and Manteno won the consolation championship.
Still, with one week left in the summer session — Seneca goes to Vandalia and Illinois College by Friday — Seneca believes it has a firm grip on what the “offseason” is for.
“It’s pretty good it’s been a fun summer. Everyone’s been working really hard to get better and improve on their skills,” Seneca senior Conlan Callahan said. “We’ve really come together as a team. This group seems to work really good together on the court. It’s really been a fun summer.
Summers, for us, is usually a chance to try some new things and the chance to get to know some of the new players coming in. Guys who played JV last year and sophomores who rare coming up. Guys that we didn’t get to play with. It’s a good chance to know what they can do. To become a bigger team and work on things to see how they might pan out … Our team has shown so much chemistry. We all know each other and have fun together and we all love basketball.
That’s been a big part of it. We’ve been executing and getting things done. Coach has done a good job of preparing for each game.”
Witte said that a lot of that preparation involves incorporating new ideas for each new and unique group.
“We’re doing some things a little bit different than we have done in the past. We’re working on some defensive changes and other things to work on for next year,” Witte said. “For us, it’s like free practice. We’re playing a little bit more zone than we have in the past, just because we’re going to be forced to next year because we’re not as deep.”
Finally, it’s the chance for Seneca’s best players to get some attention from college scouts.
“It’s an easy opportunity to get some practice in and for people like Conlan (Callahan), Alex (Bott) and Austin (Applebee) and even Carter (Gallick), it’s good for them to showcase their skills for colleges who are interested in them and to get that process started,” Witte said.
At the Shootout this weekend, Seneca beat Momence 50-38, lost to Plano 61-60, beat Coal City 57-31, lost to St. Anne 60-44 and lost to Peotone 30-29.