Seton Academy has been battle-tested all year with close games and a not-so-fast start to the season.
That is what happened to the Seton Academy boys basketball team when it started 2-3. After a fourth-place finish last year in the Class 2A state tournament, Seton was ready to roll. Or so it thought. The Sting went 2-3 at the Lincoln Railsplitter tournament over Thanksgiving.
The Sting's Kamal Shasi said that he and his teammates learned from the dash of cold water in the face.
"It was definitely a wake-up call," Shasi said. "We knew we were good, but those three losses, I don't think we lost three in a row since I've been here.
'We knew we just had to get it together."
Senior Mark Weems Jr., also a three-year starter, said the team learned from its early-season struggle and just worked on getting better.
"We realized we had to play solid defense and we have," Weems said. "It was our job as seniors to make sure everyone bought into what Coach (Brandon Thomas) was telling us.
"I thnk we knew we were going to have to earn every win."
The Sting has had three close games in a row, including a 46-45 win over Providence-St. Mel on Wednesday in the Class 2A Joliet Central Supersectional.
Seton (21-10) faces Winnebago (32-0) at 6:30 p.m. today in one semifinal of the Class 2A tournament in Peoria.
Seton won the Class 2A title in 2009.
"We want to win it all," Weems said. "We know it is going to be tough and we have to play good defense. We know we can't be perfect (shooting) every night, but we can be perfect on defense."
Shasi said the close game made them stronger.
"We know how to be in close games and what to do down the stretch," Shasi said. "We have that experience and we are a senior (-led) team."
Thomas said his team has been more of a defensive team and that was a change from last year.
"We realized at Lincoln that we had to play better defense, especially after Cahokia blew us out (87-72)," Thomas said. "To the kids credit, they realized that we had to pick up the defense and that we would not be able to just outscore everyone with offense."