SEYMOUR (WLUK) -- The Seymour boys basketball team is back. Actually it never left, but after a few seasons of struggling to compete for a conference title the Thunder is in the hunt, leading the Bay Conference.
Seymour coach Jon Murphy believed his team would be improved from last season when it finished 14-10 overall, 8-6 in conference play, which was good enough for fourth place.
"I just felt that we were going to compete with everybody and we found a way to win some close games and we're off to a good start in 2018 and here early in 2019, so we just look to continue and get better like everyone else at this stage of the season," Murphy said.
Since winning the Bay in 2015, Seymour has only once in the past three seasons finished above fourth place in the conference and that was 2016. However, the Thunder has turned things around behind senior Trent Blake (19.2 points per game) and junior Riley Murphy (18.5 ppg.).
Because of that the Thunder has a target on its back. It's the team to beat and Seymour doesn't mind.
"We know going into every game we're going to get every team in this conference best shot because they know we're leading it right now," Riley Murphy said. "So we know we have to play our hardest and our best every game because they're going to give it their all every time."
Since Xavier entered the Bay Conference in 2015-16 it has won every league title, but last week there might have been a changing of the guard. Riley Murphy buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime against Xavier and then Seymour finished off the Hawks in the extra period, beating Xavier for the first time since the Hawks entered the Bay.
Furthermore, it ended the Hawks' conference-winning streak at 34 games.
"You win big games like that and you start carrying yourself with a little big of a swag and that's important for kids to feel good about who they are," said Jon Murphy who is 1-6 against Xavier. "We're trying to accomplish some things as a team and we have some goals and this is a step in the right direction."
The win gave the players confidence they can continue to stay on top.
"That's absolutely huge because that's a team that has come into this conference four years ago or something and just rolled over everybody every year thinking they own this conference," Blake said. "So it's huge for everyone, not just us. It shows everyone in this conference that they are not the top dog anymore.
"Somebody else has to take their spot this year. It's going to be us."
Time will tell, but the Thunder for now is the team to beat.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay