SEYMOUR — Just a little over two minutes into Thursday’s Bay Conference boys basketball showdown against West De Pere and Seymour suffered an injury that seemingly would take the wind out of its sails.
Senior Dakota Oskey jumped to defend Cody Schwartz’s jumper and when he came down he fell on Schwartz’s foot, twisting his ankle.
Oskey stayed on the floor for a couple minutes before being helped off the floor. The Thunder was going to be without its second-leading scorer the rest of the game as Seymour was trying to wrap up the conference title outright.
With Oskey sitting the rest of the game with a splint on his left ankle and crutches behind him, he watched one of his best friends come to the rescue. Sandy Cohen scored a career-high 33 points, 28 coming in the second half, as the Thunder defeated the Phantoms, 68-63, to reclaim the Bay title it lost a season ago to West De Pere.
“Last year West De Pere took it from us,” Cohen said. “It’s nice to bring that conference title back to Seymour.”
“It’s a really nice accomplishment for a group of kids who really deserve this,” Seymour coach Jon Murphy said. “When you win a conference title it says you’ve played at a high level all year.”
After Oskey left the game, Seymour (21-1, 15-1) didn’t flinch as it built a 17-4 lead with Brayden Wilinski (11 points) showing off his 3-point shooting touch. However, Seymour, ranked No. 1 in the FOX 11 Top 11, isn’t the only team with a player Marquette is interested in.
Cohen has already signed to play at Marquette next season and the Golden Eagles have offered West De Pere junior Cody Schwartz. The 6-8 forward rallied the No. 10 Phantoms with a 29-point performance and made Seymour play to the end.
“We didn’t expect them to give up, they have phenomenal players,” Cohen said. “We knew it was going to be a battle to the end.”
“It really shows the character of our kids,” Murphy said. “That’s a great thing when you go into the tournament, when a kid gets in foul trouble, gets hurt, other kids can step up and play in the moment.”
Oskey scored the game’s first points on a vintage drive but with West De Pere not going anywhere, Cohen had to take over, and he did.
In the second half, Cohen was hitting 3-pointers, had a dunk and a behind-the-back drive to the basket that got the home crowd jumpjng, and in some cases bowing, as Seymour students bowed to Cohen after these moves on the sideline.
Cohen said he was not trying to take over without Oskey on the floor, even though he did.
“I was more thinking we have to run offense better, more efficient, swinging the ball more and get easier shots<” he said. “He’s a big part of our offense.”
“I guess you could say I was in the zone, because I was hitting all types of shots.”
Murphy wanted Cohen with the ball.
“In third and fourth quarter, they’re making runs,” Murphy said. “Sandy’s just answering everything and one timeout we just say, ‘Guys, get him open.’ Give him the ball and we did.”
Murphy talked about when the team lost with Oskey.
“We don’t have that inside explosiveness that he brings, so we just played a little bit more differently, played more patients and shot threes,” Murphy said. “Pretty exciting win for our kids. You’re right, Sandy took over.”
In the biggest regular season game of the season Cohen played his biggest. He said playing West De Pere (17-4, 12-3) gets him going.
“We don’t play any other games like this,” Cohen said. “It’s great to have a packed stadium and put on a show for the fans. It’s awesome.”
The Thunder now turns to the postseason where it’s a No. 1 seed in a loaded Division 2 bracket. It could meet West De Pere again in a sectional semifinal, but the Thunder wasn’t thinking that far ahead.
Seymour hopes Oskey will be ready for the postseason.
“I was just scared for him,” Cohen said. “That’s my best friend since fifth grade. I don’t want to do this journey without him. Hopefully, he gets healthy and gets back next week.”