WATERLOO — Bishop Dwenger senior Hayden Smithey stood at midcourt and slowly clapped his hands in the closing minute Wednesday night at teammate Brenden Lytle headed to the free throw line to help close out Snider, 59-46. The confident grin across Smithey’s face was palpable.
“When we play big teams like that, it just builds up our confidence,” Lytle said. “We needed this big. After winning this one, we know we can play with anyone in this Sectional. It will be a good one.”
On the second night of play in Class 4A’s sectional at DeKalb High School, the Saints never trailed and they never looked worried as they avenged a loss to Snider earlier this season. Bishop Dwenger did simply what they have been doing in important spots: ooze confidence and composure and get the job done. Homestead, Marion, Richmond, Northrop and now Snider have fallen victim to a team that just likes to win. And when the ball is falling right, a team that knows they are going to; at least to the common observer.
“We really had to change the speed tonight because they wanted to play up and down. If we would have ran with them like they wanted to run we probably would have gotten beat, so slowing down the game was big for us,” Lytle said.
Bishop Dwenger jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Issac Farnsworth was able to hit Snider’s first shot of the game, a three pointer on a night where Panther three pointers were not abundant. But it was those first two Saint baskets that were the most dangerous. They came with the Saints cutting through Snider’s recently improved defense for scores at the basket. But the time that Russ Sordelet took the ball straight up the middle of that Snider defense with 3:07 left in the first half, the most crucial damage already been done. That damage was the hit to Snider’s confidence.
And Bishop Dwenger’s confidence just rose.
Even when Snider tried to throw a full court press on late in the second quarter, the Saints just floated through it. On back to back occasions in the last 90 seconds of the first half, Bishop Dwenger broke that press with relative ease to find John Hoffman and Jack Kinder for nearly uncontested layups. When Kinder, a kid who has been looking to find his footing all season, blocked Cleevas Craig with 43 seconds left, the Saint players looked like they were floating on air.
The third quarter was all about Bishop Dwenger’s pace and calmness within it. As Snider went into a zone to try and relieve some of the pressure that Bishop Dwenger was putting on the scoreboard, the Saints were more than happy to oblige. Their first three baskets of the second half all came on three pointers and all deep into a possession.
“We know they like to get up and down the floor and they are very dangerous so we wanted to try and control the tempo. The guys followed the gameplan well,” Bishop Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff said. “We zoned them more than we did the first time; of course we didn’t guard them very good the first time we played them. We wanted to run when we had the chance, but we did try to control the tempo and make them beat us in the halfcourt.”
Snider pulled back as close as five points in the forth on a Michael Eley three pointer, but when you factor in the Panthers’ struggles at the free throw line, the damage was already done. The Saints still extended the Panthers’ defense and then paraded to the free throw line where they were as efficient as they were confident.
And if you haven’t gotten the point of my column yet, the Saints were confident.
That confidence can often be confused for cockiness, especially in the case Bishop Dwenger, who is almost always finding success on the basketball court and athletics in general.
“People that dog on us or throw shade at us, we take that to heart so it really builds us up,” Lytle said.
Bishop Dwenger will now play East Noble in Friday’s sectional semifinal round where they will again try to avenge a loss this season. Kostoff says, fairly, that nobody was picking them to win this sectional or maybe even this game. But Bishop Dwenger is picking themselves to win this sectional with a little bit of brashness included. And that is OK.
“We told them we have nothing to lose, so we just want to play,” Kostoff said. “Last Friday, we had no confidence down at Carmel. So we just said ‘learn from that, have fun and whatever happens happens.’ We told them as long as they compete for 32 minutes as hard as they can, that is all we can. That is what athletics is all about.”
The Saints were led, statistically at least, by Smithey’s 18 points, five rebounds and three assists and Lytle’s 14 points. Snider stayed balanced in their scoring with Dillon Duff and Eley each scoring 11, Craig with 10 points and seven rebounds and seven points each from Jon Barnes and Farnsworth.
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