PEORIA | Seton Academy senior Johnny Patterson figured his team might be able to “run some teams out of the gym” in the Class 2A state tournament.
At least for one night, he was dead-on right.
The fourth-ranked Sting did just that in the second quarter Friday night, running away from previously-undefeated and second-ranked Winnebago for a 62-37 semifinal victory at Carver Arena.
“We were focused on running,” said Patterson, who came off the bench to score eight of his 12 points in the crucial second quarter. “We figured we would be one of the more athletic teams down here and thought we could run some teams out of the gym.”
Seton (22-10) used a dominating stretch of defense and up-tempo transition to reel off a 19-0 run in the first half to reach Saturday’s title game against Harrisburg, a 53-43 winner over St. Joseph-Ogden. Game time is 8:15 p.m.
“It was tough getting here,” Seton coach Brandon Thomas said. “Last year we lost our first game, but this year our guys were not just excited to be here.”
After taking a 15-13 lead after the first quarter, Seton scored the first 17 points in the second quarter to build a 32-13 lead capped by a fast break basket by senior guard Mark Weems Jr. with 1:54 left.
Weems then drained a 3-pointer — and what remained of Winnebago’s hope — at the first-half buzzer for a 37-16 advantage. He finished with a game-high 16 points and added seven rebounds.
“It seems like we haven’t scored that many points in two months,” Thomas said. “Maybe the bigger court allowed our guys to spread out a little more.”
After a fourth-place showing last year and despite two three-game losing streaks this season, Seton is looking for its second state title in four seasons. The Sting also beat the then-undefeated Winnebago in the semifinals on the way to the 2A title in 2009.
“The second quarter was the whole game,” Winnebago coach Joe Murphy said. “We didn’t play very much defense and didn’t take very good shots.”
Winnebago shot just 22.1 percent from the field for the game, including 4 of 34 behind the 3-point arc. The Indians had just three points in the second quarter after missing their first eight shots, including six 3-point attempts.
“We knew they were a 3-point shooting team,” Thomas said. “It helped a little bit that they didn’t have a big man inside that we needed to worry about too much. That allowed us to focus on the perimeter more.”
Seton had 12 fast break points to Winnebago’s none and 11 points off turnovers to Winnebago’s two.
Winnebago (32-1) missed all eight of its field-goal attempts in the first half, including six 3-pointers, as the Indians went scoreless until leading scorer Matt Reinke stopped the bleeding by hitting the second of two free throws with 1:28 left in the half.
Reinke led Winnebago with 15 points on 6 of 22 shooting. Jacoby Posley added 12.
“We just tried to stay aggressive,” Weems said. “Our transition comes off our defense.”
Senior guard Armahn Mooring added 11 points and seven rebounds for Seton, while guard Kamal Shasi had six assists, six rebounds and five steals.
Minnesota recruit Alex Foster finished with seven points, three blocks and a game-high nine boards.
“We are where we wanted to be,” Thomas said. “But there’s work left to be done.”