Snider boys coach Jeremy Rauch gave his team a simple game plan before they took the floor at Homestead on Friday night.
But the “simple” plan – keep Homestead out of transition, off the foul line and off the boards – was much easier said than done, especially in a front of a capacity Homestead crowd excited by the Spartans girls and their 71-66 victory over Snider in the opening game of the night.
Still, the Snider boys built a seven-point lead in the third quarter and didn't panic when Homestead (10-5, 3-1 SAC) pulled within one point in the final 30 seconds: Karson Jenkins broke away for an easy layup, then tipped the ball away from Fletcher Loyer to set up a game-sealing dunk by Aidan Lambert to put the exclamation point on a 74-69 Snider win.
“Anybody – probably other than the guys in our locker room – didn't see it happening, because they've got the hype, they've got the five-star player, they've got all that,” Rauch said. “But we've got a lot of guys with heart.”
Jenkins scored 16 points for the Panthers (8-2, 3-1) in the first half, then added 15 more in the third quarter. He shot 3 of 4 on 3-pointers in the third quarter, and after he was fouled shooting a 3 as the clock would down in the third quarter, he hit all three of his foul shots, too. He finished with 39 points.
Lambert finished with 14 points, but his greatest contribution might have been on defense, where he helped hold Loyer scoreless in the first quarter.
“You have to make sure he just can't get easy shots off,” Lambert said of Loyer, who finished with 31 points after pouring in 14 in the fourth quarter. “He's going to pump fake a lot and try to get as many shots as he can. I just stayed with him and was just there, always contesting the whole time.”
Grady Swing hit 3s for Homestead as time expired in both the first and second quarters and finished with 11 points, as did Grant Leeper.
In the first game, the IBCA No. 1 Homestead girls (17-1, 7-0) opened the fourth quarter with a bucket by Emma Reust and back-to-back baskets by Ayanna Patterson to go up 56-41, seemingly enough to put No. 13 Snider (13-3, 6-1) to bed. But Snider senior Jyah LoVett, who had gotten hot and scored 10 points in the third quarter, refused to slow down in the fourth.
Right after Patterson gave the Spartans their biggest lead of the night, LoVett, Jordyn Poole and Destini Craig wiped out half of the deficit with an 8-0 run. Poole hit three 3s in the final period, the last one cutting Homestead's lead back to 64-60, and LoVett's final 3 once again sliced Homestead's advantage to 70-66. But it wasn't enough to entirely close the gap with the Spartans, who shot 11 of 12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we played hard for 32 minutes, we competed hard, we got big stops on defense when we needed to and we made some big offensive plays throughout the game when we had to have them,” Homestead girls coach Rod Parker said. “We made an effort to not give them fast-break points tonight, and I thought we did a good job of that, especially in the first half.”
Patterson finished with 30 points for the Spartans, and Ali Stephens had 18. LoVett finished with 23 for the Panthers, Craig had 18 and Poole 15.