That's a wrap: Distinguished M-S senior class bids farewell

That's a wrap: Distinguished M-S senior class bids farewell

DECATUR — During the third quarter of Wednesday's Class 3A Decatur Eisenhower Sectional semifinal against Springfield Southeast, Mahomet-Seymour boys' basketball coach Chad Benedict pulled senior Cory Noe aside and told his star: "You're not going out like that."

Even if it was an appropriate piece of encouragement for Noe, who had just eight points at this stage as the Bulldogs slipped behind by double digits, it could've applied to the entire six-strong group of M-S seniors as well.

Three regional championships and a sectional crown. More than 20 wins in all four seasons. Eighty-seven triumphs overall.

The Bulldogs weren't going out like this, routed by a foe that vanquished them in the 2016 sectional semifinals. And they didn't — it just wasn't enough.

Anthony Fairlee tallied 20 points, Michael Tyler added 17, and Southeast held off frequent M-S pressure to collect a 59-45 victory and end the Bulldogs' season.

"Obviously sad that it's over," said Noe, who finished with a team-high 16 points against the second-ranked team in 3A. "But at the same time, looking back, I wouldn't want to go out with any other group of senior guys. It's crazy, everything that my class has done."

Agile guards junior Terrion Murdix and senior Kobe Medley kept M-S (21-11) on its toes all night defensively, moving the ball by air and ground while providing themselves and their teammates with better looks.

Though the Bulldogs stumped the Spartans (26-3) through portions of the first three quarters, they ultimately couldn't contain junior Tyler in the paint and senior Fairlee all over the court.

"You've got to give them credit. They made plays when they needed to make plays," Benedict said. "We're not a big go-chase-you-down team, and we were afraid if we got in that situation it could be a little tough, and it proved to be."

M-S was keener to rely on its superior physicality. And with the officiating crew allowing some aggression to go uncalled, the Bulldogs found a way to combat a more-athletic Southeast squad.

That was a big reason the tilt was tied at 14 after one period. From there, however, the Spartans continually broke off on short runs to push a slim advantage to an edge near or at 10 points.

"(Coach Lawrence Thomas) just told us, 'Keep playing through contact,'" Fairlee said. "If they call a foul, they call it. If they don't, just finish the bucket and just keep playing hard."

Murdix complemented Fairlee and Tyler with 10 points, tallying seven of those in the second quarter. Coincidentally, that was Southeast's halftime lead at 30-23.

Meanwhile, only junior Brooks Coetzee (10 points) joined Noe in double figures, as M-S struggled to find shooting space later in the contest. Making matters worse for the Bulldogs was the Spartans' ball control, as just two Southeast turnovers in the last 16 minutes meant few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"We played them two years ago, so we knew it was going to be that type of game," Thomas said. "We knew we were going to have to battle and be strong with the ball and rebound. I thought we persevered. We made enough plays at the end."

M-S constantly stuck around, though, until Southeast opted to play four corners with the clock winding down. The Bulldogs trailed by five points through three periods and were within a single basket early in the fourth stanza.

But when Fairlee responded with a pair of conversions following M-S turnovers, the Spartans discovered a comfort level that lasted the rest of the night.

"We showed that we can play with them," Noe said. "We just had a couple bad stretches of turning the ball over, and we missed a lot of easy layups."

Even as the shade of disappointment lingered over the Bulldogs following the final horn, their coach was impressed with what he saw Wednesday. This was especially the case for those six upperclassmen — Benedict's son Noah among them.

In Chad Benedict's mind, what this crew accomplished goes beyond statistics and postseason hardware.

"I think they've done a good job of recognizing that our groups before have come and laid it on the line," he said. "I'm just proud of them. They went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the state. I like to think we really made Southeast earn it."