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The Journal Gazette

Friday, February 10, 2017 7:44 pm

Snider wraps up SAC title

JOSH PATTERSON | For The Journal Gazette

Welcome to Snider's Kilmer Court, which proved a killer for many of the SAC heavy hitters.

North Side. Check.

Homestead. Check.

Carroll. Check.

And on Friday, Bishop Luers. Check and mate.

With a 64-53 victory over the Knights, Snider (13-5, 8-0 SAC) secured its first conference championship since 2009.

“It’s a grind,” Snider coach Jeremy Rauch said. “That’s what’s neat, is to know that we come ahead out of the talent and the depth that our conference is, to rise to the top is real exciting.”

That said, it wasn’t easy. With a pair of seasoned guards in Ray Walker Jr. and J.J. Foster Jr. in the backcourt causing Snider fits, Luers (12-6, 6-2) held a 37-34 advantage after three quarters.

The pesky duo, thanks to some of the quickest hands and feet in the league, kept the Panthers off balance offensively while helping limit 7-foot senior Malik Williams to four points through the first 24 minutes.

“People look at us like, ‘Who are these guys? You’ve overachieved’,” Luers coach J.J. Foster Sr. said. “I have a veteran ballclub, (Anton) Berry’s a tough matchup. When they play to their capability, I’m taking those guys vs. anybody.”

But Williams wouldn’t be held down forever. Riding high from an energy boost following a technical foul whistled against the Panthers' bench late in the third quarter, the Louisville recruit turned the fourth quarter into his own personal highlight reel.

Paced by four rim-rocking slam dunks, Williams scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the frame.

“Our team is the epitome of, it’s not what happens, it’s how we respond,” Rauch said. “We had to make a positive out of it. With us on the bench creating energy, and then there’s energy in the stands and then energy on the court, we kind of perpetuated that.”

While the technical gave Luers two points and possession of the ball, that sustained energy boost wasn’t matched by the visitors.

A Berry driving basket put the Knights up 37-31 with 13.8 seconds left in the third, but an 8-0 Snider run sandwiched around the quarter break – punctuated by Williams’ first hammer dunk off a Jonqwell Lee assist – gave the hosts a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“That was crucial,” Foster Sr. said. “In a game like this, your margin of error is not very great. We made a couple mistakes, they made us pay and they went from there.”

And seeing those final seconds tick off proved nothing short of relief for Williams, a four-year varsity player for the Panthers.

“We just had to keep on fighting,” Williams said. “To finally get the conference, it feels great.”

Williams was called for a technical foul midway through the fourth quarter after hanging on the rim too long after a dunk.

Foster Jr. paced Luers with 16 points, while Berry added 12. Tre Underwood scored the Knights’ first seven points, but foul trouble kept him off the scoreboard from that point.

Michael Barnfield scored 16 points for Snider, while Keondre Brown finished with 12.