While the Seneca Indians beat back the Pierce City Eagles on Saturday night and won the Class 3 District 12 boys basketball championship at East Newton High School, 62-39, the biggest story of the night was simply, "where is Dietrick Sooter?"
The Eagles' #23 never appeared in the contest, and spectators for the game scratched their heads and rechecked their programs in a hoops version of "Where's Waldo?" While Pierce City issued no formal announcement, reliable sources revealed that the situation involved team rules. No further explanation was necessary.
With Dietrick Sooter out, cousins Wayne and Wayne Joe Sooter took the guard positions for the Eagles, with Jared Frey, Jared Barchak and Robert Baldwin manning the front line against Seneca's powerful inside game.
Though Seneca controlled the opening tip, the first points went to Pierce City, as Wayne Joe Sooter ripped a trey. Stryker Harris, Seneca's legit 6-foot 7-inch post, rolled to a basket and ignited an 11-0 run to give the Indians an 11-3 lead. Coach T. J. Dickinson called time for Pierce City with 4:39 on the first quarter clock.
The teams sparred for the remainder of the period, with each squad scoring 5, and Seneca led 16-8 at the first break. Harris, though not scoring, appeared to own the lane and boards at both ends of the court.
Wayne Sooter's 10-foot fadeaway inched Pierce City closer to begin the second quarter. Alex Scott answered with the first of his three treys for the game, and Harris traded a bucket for Wayne Sooter's free throw to establish Seneca's first double digit lead at 21-11.
Jared Barchak scored for the Eagles, and Scott dropped another bomb for a 24-12 Seneca lead. Pierce City was stuck on 12 for over four minutes of the second quarter, and Harris bulled for a pair of baskets as the Indians took a 30-13 advantage. Sooter sliced into the lane and scored with a teardrop with 1:52 left in the half, then drained a trey a minute later.
Frey elevated and canned a 12-foot jumper at the buzzer for Pierce City to cut the lead to 10, and Seneca led 30-20 at halftime.
Wayne Sooter scored the first 5 points of the third quarter, and Seneca coach Will King studied intently from the bench. Instead of a timeout, the Indians forced the ball in to Harris on consecutive possessions to stretch the lead again.
Pierce City pulled within 7 points again, but Bo Noah tossed a pair of free throws in the ark midway through the period, and Clay Cobble's left wing trey set the Seneca lead back at 10 with 2:36 left in the third.
Wayne Sooter threw in a deep three for Pierce City's 31st, 32nd and 33rd points, and Toby Roelfsema swished a short jumper ahead of the buzzer for a 42-33 Seneca advantage.
Down 9 points to start the final chapter of the district championship game, Pierce City needed a run. But the fourth quarter run belonged to the Indians. Alex Scott hit from beyond the arc and Harris converted three times in the lane as the Indians built a 27-point lead before the Eagles finally scored in the quarter with 2:17 left.
Seneca called timeout to give their starters a curtain call, and the Indians won the Class 3 District 12 championship, 62-39. It was a great night for the Seneca community, as the girls also won a district championship, knocking off East Newton in the early game.
Harris led Seneca in the scoring column with his blue-collar 19 points in the paint. Harris was unstoppable down the stretch, and Pierce City had no answer for the burly post. Roelfsema scored a quiet 18 points and Scott added 13 for the Indians.
Wayne Sooter carried his team, totaling 21 points and keeping Pierce City in the game until late. No other Eagle scored more than 5 points.