• Following an extended hiatus, Homer “bleacher creatures” return in full force
By Sean Pearson
If Mariner junior Kenneth Schneider had anything but ice-cold blood running through his veins while he stood at the free throw line in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game against Seward, nobody in Alice Witte’s packed gymnasium knew it.
Schneider stepped up to the line, took a deep breath, and calmly sank two crucial free throws late in the Southcentral Conference match-up to push Homer to a white-knuckled, 48-46 win over the Seahawks.
“When I was up there, I was thinking about staying relaxed, and tried to imagine I was just shooting free throws in practice,” Schneider said. “But I couldn’t help going back to the last game in Nikiski where I went 1 for 5.”
He added that the 50-plus free throws Head Coach Mark Casseri has the team shoot every day certainly helps.
Schneider scored a game-high 18 points, while senior Quinn Daugharty added 11. The M’s were behind 13-20 at the half, and 31-32 after the third quarter.
A 17-14 fourth quarter gave Homer the game.
“Yeah, that was a little too close for comfort,” Schneider said. “Hopefully that won’t happen too many more times.”
Homer’s shooting stalled in the first half, with the team picking up only 13 points. Schneider attributed the lackluster scoring performance to rushing shots, and called it “definitely frustrating.”
“We weren’t working the ball around their zone like we had been doing all week in practice,” Schneider explained. “Seward has a strong team this year, with deadly outside-shooting and a tough defense.”
Daugharty agreed, adding that, since Homer had already faced Seward earlier in the season, they kind of knew what to expect.
“We knew it was going to be a battle the whole game,” he said. “When our shots weren’t falling, we got too hard on ourselves and frustrated with each other.”
Daugharty said the team started to stress a bit when their outside shooting turned cold.
“We tried shooting three-pointers, but they just weren’t falling,” he said. “At the half, coach told us to stop forcing threes and start working the inside/outside game against their 2-3 zone.”
It worked. The M’s settled down a bit, got accustomed to the intensity of the crowd and returned to their usual game of steals, breakaways and layups.
Both Schneider and Daugharty commented on the impact of a rowdy home crowd.
“I have never seen the gym so packed, and it was awesome,” Schneider said. “We could barely hear each other on the court for most of the game. It’s was — by far — the most fun I’ve had playing basketball.”
“It was easily the most intense and thrilling basketball game I have ever been a part of,” Daugharty said. “What won the game in the end, was a positive mental attitude and the belief as a team that we could win.”
The Mariners travel to Barrow this weekend to compete in the Whaler Invitational Tournament.
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