NORMAL - Senior Night is a time to celebrate achievements, both on and off the court, of your soon-to-be graduating class. Hopefully, a victory is part of the celebration, too.
The on-the-court script wasn't playing out that way for University High School's basketball team after the first quarter of the Pioneers' regular-season finale against Corn Belt Conference foe Mahomet-Seymour at the U High Gym.
That is, until the seniors stepped up to spark U High to a 58-38 victory over the Bulldogs.
The Pioneers trailed 14-4 after the opening period, finally recording their first points at the 3:56 mark of the quarter.
Mahomet-Seymour used an active man-to-man defense to deny the U High offense inside penetration while using a quick ball movement offense of their own to open the game with a 7-0 run and put the Pioneers on their heels.
Enter senior No. 1, along with a defensive adjustment by U High coach Cal Hubbard.
Drew Miller scored seven of his 11 points in the second period while the Pioneers (13-13 overall, 8-6 Corn Belt) put the defensive clamps on Mahomet-Seymour (15-12, 7-7), holding the Bulldogs to one point, to take a 17-15 halftime lead.
"We didn't have a single stop or rebound in the first quarter," said Hubbard. "We changed our defense, did a good job of staying in front of the ball and were able to stop their penetration in the second quarter. Our first substitution rotation seemed to help as well."
Enter senior No. 2.
Seth Doran netted nine of high game-high 18 points as U High came flying out of the locker room after intermission, putting up a 9-0 run in the first 2:05 of the third quarter to build its lead to 26-15.
The defense continued to stifle the Mahomet-Seymour offense which produced only four points in the period. U High held the Bulldogs without a field goal from the :59 mark of the first quarter until they finally broke the ice with 2:09 left in the third. The Pioneers took a comfortable 39-19 lead into the final eight minutes.
Senior No. 3, Matt Anderson, was a disruptive defensive force for the Pioneers, clogging up the middle and forcing the Bulldogs to alter their shots on numerous occasions. The 6-foot-5 post also contributed five points while playing an active role in the U High offensive ball movement.
The fourth quarter was one of transition with the U High seniors passing the torch to next year's squad.
Junior guard Jeff Higgins scored 10 of his 16 points in the final period, including all eight of his free throws while Doran added seven points to close out the Bulldogs.
The Pioneers were an impressive 20-for-23 from the line for the contest.
"It's always nice to get a win on Senior Night," said Hubbard. "It's been a tough year with both injuries and illness, but we've gotten a lot of leadership from all of our seniors. Matt Anderson has been a big for us coming back from a broken foot. Tyler McNeely (senior No. 4) was there for us all year until he broke his wrist. We'll miss all of them."