If the shot that sunk Wheaton High School on Saturday was anything, it was unconventional.
Michael Schroeder had played precisely zero seconds of the first 34 minutes in Saturday morning's rescheduled matchup between cross-town rivals John F. Kennedy and Wheaton. But after starting shooting guard Robert Wilson fouled out in overtime, coach Diallo Nelson had no choice but to go one man deeper into the six-player rotation he had used all game.
Enter Schroeder, ice cold, just one game of varsity experience under his belt, 'The Battle of Randolph Road,' as Keif Williams described the rivalry, on the line. The first thing he does? Launches up a contested 3-pointer that hits above the white box on the backboard, caroms towards the front of the rim, bounces straight up and drops through. Three points.
“That,” explained Wheaton (12-8, 10-2) coach Marco Basso-Luca after the 59-57 loss, “was the shot that killed us.”
“Obviously we had a little bit of luck with it,” Nelson said. “I mean, it hit the backboard.”
For a good while, it didn't appear as if the Cavaliers (13-6, 4-3) would have much need for any overtime heroics. Nelson's team jumped out to an 11-2 lead and held a 24-16 advantage at halftime behind 10 points from Williams and nine more from backcourt teammate Tre West.
In the meantime, Wheaton leading scorer Ibrahim Kallon had hit just one field goal and second-leading scorer Mike Patterson had yet to score at all. Half of the Knights' points had come off free throws and, the best part of it for Kennedy: this was the first time it had ever gone to a zone defense.
With Michael Scott, the team's second leading scorer on the year, ineligible for the rest of the season and two others out with an injury, Nelson's lineup was considerably thinned. He abandoned his trademark full-court press to keep the players' legs underneath them and fell back into a 1-3-1 zone. It took even him by surprise at just how effective it was.
“We had to play a little different. For the first 12, 13 games of the season, we're playing full-court man-to-man to the whole game,” Nelson said. “We normally go nine deep. We can't go nine deep and you can't go full-court man-to-man now. If we were a little bigger, I'd like to play the [1-3-1] a little bit longer but quickness, it's effective.”
Throughout the majority of the second half, Nelson's newfound zone continued to stump Wheaton. The Cavaliers led by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter before Kallon broke his slump with nine points, Jacob Payne tacked on six more, and Patterson hit a twisting 3-pointer over a double-team in the corner to make it a two-point game.
Twelve seconds later Kallon tied it up with a pair of free throws and to overtime they went.
And at the most improbable juncture, directly after Wilson fouled out and Kallon hit both of the ensuing free throws, Schroeder hoisted up the 3-point bank shot that broke the Knights' backs.
“Well,” said a grinning Williams, who finished with a game-high 22 points, “he shot it with confidence.”
Kennedy 59, Wheaton 57
Kennedy (13-6, 4-3) 15 9 13 13 9 — 59
Wheaton (12-8, 10-2) 6 10 11 23 7 — 57
Kennedy: Keif Williams 22, Bruke Hawkins 14, Tre West 9, Robert Wilson 7, DaShawn Woody 4, Michael Schroeder 3.
Wheaton: Ibrahim Kallon 21, Jacob Payne 10, Mikey Patterson 9, Daquan Moore 8, Carey Brown 4, Langston Payne 3, Seydi Diop 2.