As nice as it was, the Seton School boys basketball team downplayed its 83-77 overtime win against Battlefield Dec. 28.
Yes, the victory provided a confidence-boost against a quality program. The private-Catholic school in Manassas, with an enrollment of about 240 students in ninth-through-12th grade, had just defeated a public school with almost 3,000 students.
But with an experienced guard-oriented team that is well coached and capable of producing bushels of points from the perimeter, Seton refused to see itself as an underdog no matter how formidable the opponent might seem.
Against Battlefield, one of Prince William County’s top boys programs every year, the Conquistadors shot as well as they have all season, converting 15 of their 28 3-point attempts. Overall, they shot 56.5 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line (16 of 20).
That kind of performance helped overcome a Battlefield team that also shot well.
“If we don’t shoot the ball like we did from the free-throw line or the 3, there’s no way we beat them,” said Seton head coach Dan Vander Woude.
With that in mind, Seton’s players, who compete with a number of the Battlefield players on travel teams, walked off the court proud of their accomplishment, but also kept it in perspective.
“It’s a fun opportunity for the guys to play with them,” said Vander Woude, Seton’s coach since the 1992-93 season. “It’s not about the size of the school. It’s out of the ordinary for us to play such a large school, but it’s still five on five. We are not playing football against them.”
Playing in two local tournaments last month, Seton (3-0 in Delaney Athletic Conference, 8-5 overall) had a chance to test itself against a number of Class 6 schools. The Conquistadors lost to Colgan 42-40 Dec. 5 on the first day of the Manassas Park Tournament.
Although Seton shot poorly that night, going 8 of 28 from the 3-point line, were outrebounded 33-12 and outscored in the paint 20-8, they remained close through discipline and focus.
“They made us work for our points,” said Colgan head coach Jason John. “Seton strikes me as a team that isn't going to beat themselves.”
Through a scheduling format change, Seton went to a different Christmas tournament over the break by competing at Westfield.
The smallest program in the eight-team field, the Conquistadors lost to the host school 65-62 in the opening round before dropping a 78-54 decision to 11-0 Yorktown in the second round. Seton then beat Battlefield in its final tournament game.
Seton returns five key players, including two starters, from last year’s 20-9 team. Senior guard John Vander Woude, Dan’s oldest son, is the top returner. A first-team all-Delaney Athletic Conference selection last season, John Vander Woude and teammate John Pennefather tied for the lead as Prince William County’s top boys 3-point scorers a year ago with 76 treys each (2.7 a game).
With only one post player on the roster in senior Dominic Olszewski, the Conquistadors rely heavily on the outside shot. Like a year ago, they remain prolific from the 3-point line this season, averaging 8 3-pointers a game. They have 111 total on the season, a number that far surpasses any other local team so far.
John Vander Woude again leads the area in 3-pointers, averaging 3 a game. Teammate Andrew Nguyen is second with 2.5 a game followed by John’s cousin Jack Vander Woude, who averages 2.2 a game.
“We develop an offense for a variety of ways and try to have balance,” said Dan Vander Woude, a Seton graduate himself who holds the state boys basketball record of 3,329 career points. “These days, the 3-point shot is a big part and we spend a lot of time on that.”
Using primarily seven players in its rotation, Seton isn’t deep. But they play together well. That, more than anything, is what means the most to their coach.
“Our chemistry is the key factor,” Dan Vander Woude said. “They share the ball and are unselfish.”