After failing the first quiz a week ago, Northrop did much better on the midterm against Snider on Friday night.
Six days after blowing a fourth-quarter lead to the Panthers, the Bruins (8-2, 3-0 SAC) held on for a 51-47 victory that gave them the early lead in the SAC standings along with Concordia.
“This is a statement game,” senior guard Qualen Pettus said.
If nothing else, the win said that the Bruins learned from their previous game.
In the semifinals of the SAC Holiday Tournament last Saturday, the Bruins built a nine-point lead in the final quarter only to watch the Panthers rally for a 75-68 victory.
The rematch Friday at Northrop was a near carbon copy as the Bruins rode the 23 points and inside dominance of Sydney Curry to build a 13-point lead early in the fourth quarter only to watch it nearly disappear again.
Junior Dillon Duff scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to spark a 14-5 run by Snider (8-3, 2-1) that cut Northrop’s lead to 47-43 with 2:48 remaining.
It was during a timeout with 2:13 left in which Northrop coach Rod Chamble heard Pettus calming his teammates down and he realized his team had learned from its mistakes from last week and were ready to ace the test.
“It was easier because it was still fresh in the kids’ minds, how we had lost is fresh,” Chamble explained. “So here comes that same scenario and the kids were like, ‘OK, I remember what coach said.’ They were on the bench going, ‘Everybody just calm down, we practiced this.’
“When I heard them say that, that let me know they were ready.”
Although it would have been easier had the Bruins hit their free throws – they made just 3-of-8 in the final 1:45 – they made just enough and record their first win over Snider since the 2015 Class 4A sectional.
Speaking of the sectional, it would be fitting if the teams would meet for the rubber match at the 4A Sectional in late February at DeKalb.
The Bruins proved Friday they are already preparing for a possible final exam.
“Our kids have never won before,” said Chamble, whose team went 6-16 last year. “We haven’t been in this type of winning situation before, so last week was a learning curve for us. Now we understand there’s going to be a lot of games like that going forward, now we kind of understand what to do.
“In all honestly, the biggest game is this game. I would love to win the city tournament, but every year we set up to win conference and give our best shot for sectionals and regionals.”
With the 6-foot-8 Curry inside and solid guard play from Pettus, who had 13 points Friday, Northrop will be a tough out.
Snider had no answer for Curry, who scored 22 of his 23 points in the first three quarters, making 11-of-17 from the field, most of which came from the low post.
“He’s tough,” Snider coach Jeremy Rauch said. “We tried to do our best to limit his deep post touches. (If you don’t), it’s done, it’s over. At that point we just try not to foul him and hope he misses. That’s what a good player does and what a good team does is make sure he gets a touch every time.”
Junior Michael Eley led Snider with 18 points to go with Duff’s 14. But the Bruins forced 15 Snider turnovers, but more notably didn’t allow the Panthers to get in any flow offensively.
“When we say we’ve got to make sure we handle the basketball, that means more than just not turning the ball over,” Rauch said. “We want to stay within the framework of our offense and that’s what they did more than anything else, they pushed us out of rhythm and range. They disrupted our screens. Their defense was exceptional tonight.”