MAHOMET — After Mahomet-Seymour's crushing 73-67 overtime loss to Mattoon just seven days earlier, Mahomet-Seymour coach Ryan Bosch knew he had to make a change. After consulting the team captains and the rest of his coaching staff, he inserted sophomore Braden Finch and senior Connor Kamphaus into the starting lineup, replacing Dawson Finch and Kobe Essien.
Kamphaus and Braden Finch made Bosch's decision look good on Tuesday. The duo combined for 18 points as M-S held off Washington 59-54 as the Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak.
"That felt really good, not going to lie," Bosch said. "To lose your last two conference games in overtime the way we did, and to struggle over at State Farm in between there, it could be hard for some kids to handle. I felt like we had three of our best practices after the Mattoon game. They deserved this. They earned this in practice this week."
Braden Finch got off to a hot start, scoring four of his 10 points in the first quarter, and Kamphaus splashed a long triple late in the first quarter. Braden Finch and Kamphaus combined for nine of the Bulldogs' points in the first quarter as M-S built up a 20-9 advantage after Lucas Turner converted an and-one with 6.5 seconds left in the first quarter.
Washington's star sophomore Rickey Woods went absolutely off, and he especially heated up in the second quarter. Woods ignited a 9-0 Panther run with strong takes to the cup and tough midrange pull-up jumpers. Washington got to within 22-20, and Coleman was on the bench with a couple fouls.
M-S finally found a way to get it going offensively without its prolific scorer, but it was the Bulldogs' defense that led to their offense. The Bulldogs ended the half on an 11-1 run thanks to a couple steals and fast break layups from Cole Lener and Kamphaus.
Braden Finch ripped away one steal and went coast-to-coast, drawing a foul on a strong drive to the rim. He knocked down both free throws, and Coleman reentered and immediately scooped in a layup right before the halftime buzzer to give M-S a 33-21 lead at the break.
"I thought that was a huge telling point for me," Bosch said. "When he went to the bench in foul trouble, we've been in that situation before, and that's flipped games for us. We kinda held check, and I think we might have even increased the lead during that stretch and we don't do that often because he's a really good player."
Washington wouldn't go quietly. Washington head coach Kevin Brown fought off a brain tumor, and his team completely embodies Brown's toughness and tenacity. Eight Panthers played more than 12 minutes. Six of them were underclassmen, and four of them were freshmen.
Woods hit two triples and a couple free throws to spark a 13-0 Washington run which gave the Panthers a 34-33 lead early in the third quarter. Woods finished with a game-high 28 points.
"(Woods) played really, really well tonight," Bosch said. "Kudos to him for going off."
But the Bulldogs didn't fold this time. They had leads against Effingham and Mattoon down the stretch, before allowing late-game comebacks. This time, M-S landed the final punch.
Coleman scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in the second half. His layup gave M-S a 36-34 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
Braden Finch had a huge block that led to another Coleman layup. On the ensuing possession, Braden Finch splashed a corner three right in front of his bench to give M-S a 42-36 advantage.
"Felt really good," Braden Finch said. "The bench players and my coach were keeping me hyped and I felt ready to roll."
M-S stretched its lead out to 50-41, but Washington had one final surge that brought the Panthers to within 56-54, thanks to some M-S blunders.
The Bulldogs had missed three free throws and turned the ball over a couple times. It was eerily similar to the ending of the Mattoon game last week. But Braden Finch stepped to the line with 13.6 seconds left for a couple big free throws.
He swished the first but missed the second. Coleman ripped down the offensive rebound and calmly flipped in the putback.
Brown threw his hands down in disgust as Coleman delivered the nail in the coffin.
Coleman finished with four rebounds and four steals to go along with 22 points. The junior was efficient, too, shooting 8-for-13 from the field. Instead of settling for long three-pointers, Coleman got to the rack in the second half.
"That (putback) was huge for us," Bosch said. "I thought he made a couple nice passes that got us going into the flow of the offense. I loved his shot selection, and we talked to him about doing some different things and he responded well. I was pleased."
Bosch challenged his team to come together and fight after the loss to Mattoon. They did just that, and the Bulldogs have a real opportunity to build off the solid performance against Washington.
"This sort of game can be infectious," Bosch said. "When you get positive play, it can keep spiraling on. We've got a real gauntlet coming up here. I just want them to realize we can lose a game and still be a good basketball team. Good days are ahead still, and they have to keep chugging along."
Morton will be in town Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. varsity tip. It will be the Coaches vs. Cancer game, and the proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Association.
"We've had a lot of success in past years being able to raise money for the cause," Bosch said. "It's nice that the IBCA and the IHSA have built it to this point, so people are familiar with it and know what's going on. The community support for us, in particular, has been really good, and so we hope to get a big crowd out and show some support and hopefully we can cut a big check to the American Cancer Association."
On Tuesday, M-S will have a huge showdown with Centennial at home. Junior varsity will get going at 6 p.m. Varsity will start at 7:30.