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Snider had been in this position before. Playing at Canterbury, the Panthers were in a one-possession game with less than 30 seconds left. Snider was used to this situation, as the Panthers had lost their last two games on a last-second shot.
With time winding down and the game close, the thought of yet another potential loss at the end was creeping into the players and coaches minds.
This time, though, Snider (5-5) overcame its recent trend of losing at the buzzer. The Panthers hit five critical free throws and made a few defensive stops in the closing seconds for a 65-60 win over Canterbury (7-4) Tuesday night.
“We've lost three games in 4 seconds this season,” Snider head coach John Todor said. “We got beat by Warsaw on a last second shot, got beat last week by South Side on a last second shot, and we talked about it in the timeout, let's not lose another one.”
Snider was able to win the game with free throws in the final minute from Stephen Halstead. Trailing by one with 31.3 seconds left, the junior drove toward the basket and drew a foul to shoot two free throws.
Even with all the pressure, Halstead didn't need a lucky bounce as he put both free throws right through the net to give Snider a 1-point lead.
“Well, I was excited just to get the ball at the end,” Halstead said. “This morning, well this whole school year, I go in and shoot 50 free throws before school starts. So, when I got to the free throw line I was just happy it was me there, knew I could seal it.”
Snider then managed to do something it had struggled to do all game: stop Canterbury's Trent VanHorn. The Cavalier senior led all scorers with 26 points, but was forced into tough shots when he was isolated on the last few possessions. He missed two shots inside and a putback attempt after he got his own rebound, but eventually Halstead came away with the ball with 4.3 seconds left and was fouled. He promptly made two more free throws to make it a two-possession game and out of reach for Canterbury.
“We had the ball and didn't score, and then we had two out-of-bounds plays and didn't get a good shot off of either one of them and that was just execution,” Canterbury head coach Scott Kreiger said. “When you have a chance to win games like that and need to make one more play, that's the difference between winning and losing and that's what made the difference tonight.”
Snider was also helped by a productive night from 3-point range. The Panthers hit seven 3-pointers in the first half and hit 50 percent from behind the arc for the game. It gave them a 6-point lead at the end of the first quarter and 3-point lead heading into halftime. Five of the threes came from Halstead, who finished with 20 points, and Leander Williams, who scored 16.
“Tonight, we lived and died by the three, and we lived by it … (but) we got to do a better job looking down in the post as well,” Todor said. “Our big boys are open down there and when they catch it they have to do a better job at finishing it.”
Canterbury's Austin Hatch has come a long way, but he still hasn't been cleared to return fully and compete for the Cavaliers.
After his plane crash in 2011 that caused brain trauma, fractured ribs and punctured a lung, Hatch was cleared to return to limited practice at the beginning of this season. The Michigan recruit and re-classified junior has continued to take part partially in practice since then, but there is no date for when he will be able to return fully or play in games according to Kreiger.
“Austin is where he's been for the past several weeks,” Kreiger said. “He's participating in practice. He's not been released to participate fully, and that's an ongoing process. So, his doctors and his therapists will have the final call if, and when, he's able to come back.”
The type of drills he has been participating in has not developed significantly in the past few weeks either according to Kreiger.
“He's able to do most of the things that we do, but not all the things that we do,” Kreiger said. “Like I said, that's something that's out of our control.”
Snider 15 17 12 21 — 65
Canterbury 9 20 18 13 — 60
Snider: Halstead 20, Leander Williams 16, Harvey 4, Spitnale 4, Devlyn Dilliams 10, Washington 4, Covington 2
Canterbury: Moyle 11, Pedro 2, VanHorn 26, Sinn 7, Kus 8, Walker 6