Indians cap improbable run to regional title by beating Trojans in overtime

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PAYSON, Ill. — The Brotherhood plays on.

The Payson Seymour boys basketball team’s latest unexpected postseason success, a 42-39 overtime victory Friday night in the Class 1A regional finals against Triopia, allows the underdog Indians to keep their unlikely tournament dream alive.

“It’s a brotherhood here in Payson, a family,” junior point guard Wyatt Neisen said. “We hang out together, and we’re all good friends. It’s better here than any other place I’ve seen.”

While it’s hard to accurately gauge how an intangible of that nature plays into a team’s success, it’s equally hard to dispute what Payson has done since the start of the postseason.

The Indians, now 18-15, completed a three-game run on their home floor to win the regional as an unheralded No. 9 seed under the umbrella of the Hardin Sectional. Prior to beating Triopia, Payson knocked off New Berlin 41-38. The Pretzels were ranked No. 7 in the final Associated Press poll and No. 1 on one ballot.

“There is no better feeling than to play at home and win a regional title,” Payson coach Tyler Duschinsky said. “These boys deserve this. They are the most coachable group I have been associated with.”

After the game, Payson players and coaches made a concerted effort to shake hands with and thank as many members of the crowd of about 800 as possible.

“No one expected us to win the regional,” said sophomore guard Blake Schwartz, who contributed 13 second-half points, including four 3-point field goals. “It was even more gratifying to do this at home. Our crowd was amazing.”

Payson ultimately turned back No. 7 seed Triopia (20-14) by outscoring the Trojans 6-3 in overtime. Payson denied a last-gasp effort by the Trojans, who could not get off any sort of makeable shot before time expired, which was exactly the opposite of the way regulation play ended. 

Triopia’s Ryan Snow swished a 3-pointer from the right corner as time expired, sending the game into overtime knotted at 36.

Payson’s 5-for-16 struggle at the foul line in the second half allowed Triopia to keep hanging around in the fourth quarter. The Trojans, however, were even worse at the stripe, missing all five of their second-half foul shots.

Schwartz and Bryan Dieker paced Payson with 13 points apiece.

“I love being able to go out this way as a senior,” Dieker said. “This was the most memorable game of my career.”

Schwartz scorched the perimeter — and beyond — over the final two quarters. A pair of his 3-pointers came in the third quarter, helping Payson pull even at 27-27 going into the fourth period. He added two more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, one from well beyond NBA 3-point range. 

Schwartz scored as many points Friday night as he did in the previous two regional games combined.

“Coach told us we had to keep our heads up at halftime,” said Schwartz, whose club trailed 20-14 at intermission.

Dieker lauded Schwartz for igniting the team in the second half.

“When Blake hit those 3-pointers, we could feel the momentum swinging,” Dieker said.

Duschinsky also praised the work of Schwartz.

“When Blake is set and has his rhythm, we know he’s going to make those threes,” Duschinsky said. “He can knock them down.”

Neisen, whose 10 points gave Payson three double-figure scorers, hauled in a team-high eight rebounds. Dieker had seven.

Aiden Neathery (15) and Snow (14) combined for 29 of Triopia’s points. K.J. Beck (8) and Snow (7) were the Trojans’ rebounding leaders.

Next up for Payson will be No. 1 seed and No. 8-ranked Waterloo Gibault (27-7), which downed Lovejoy 71-57 on Friday night. The game is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Calhoun High School.

Neisen said the Indians are up for another challenge.

“We’ve beaten two pretty good teams back to back,” he said. “We’ll be ready.”

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