FORT WAYNE – The top two seeds, North Side and Snider, battled their way into todays SAC boys tournament championship game.
The No. 1 Redskins beat No. 4 Bishop Dwenger 65-54, while the No. 2 Panthers rallied past No. 3 Wayne 53-49 in the semifinals Friday at Wayne.
The Redskins (7-0) will play the Panthers (5-3) at 7 p.m. today in the SAC tournament finals.
North Side hasnt been in the SAC tourney finals since 2006 when it beat South Side 74-70. Snider last played in the SAC finale in 2005 when the Panthers beat North Side 78-73.
It means a lot because the last few years we havent got past the first round, North Sides Jeremy Jones said. To come together as a team, get this win and get to the championship game means a lot to us.
The Panthers get another chance at the Redskins, who won 68-46 on Dec. 13.
We have to go back and regroup, Snider coach John Todor said. Our guys really want to play North Side. They got us on a night when we didnt play well. North Side is a heck of a team, and we will go home and figure out a game plan for (tonight).
In the second semifinal, Snider got past Wayne with the help of a three-pointer and two free throws by senior Stephen Halstead in the final 19 seconds.
We just came together as a team, and they gave me an open look and I knocked (the three-pointer) down at the end, Halstead said.
Wayne led 21-8 after the first quarter on Levi Mitchells 70-foot bank shot at the buzzer. But the Panthers kept chipping away and drew even in the third quarter at 36. Wayne (5-2) took a 49-48 lead with 35 seconds left before Halsteads heroics.
We tried to slow the game down because Wayne wants to get up and down all the time, and you cant always do that against them, Halstead said.
We tried to stay calm and play our game, and at the end of the game, we actually came out on top.
Halstead and Devlyn Williams each had 13 points for Snider.
Thats what seniors do, they step up for you, Todor said of Halstead. He hit a big shot in a big moment, and he hit the key free throws. He scored the last five points of the game for us, and thats what you are supposed to do.
Freshman Malik Williams made his first career start for the Panthers in place of Logan Godfrey, who became ill before the game, and scored 10 points.
Snider had lost at Wayne 77-70 on Dec. 20.
We got caught up in how they want to play last time, Todor said of the rematch against the Generals. Our game plan this time was to keep it close and win it in the second half. We told our guys to hang in there, and we will get our chance, and when we get our chance put the pedal to the metal and dont let up.
Justin Mitchell led Wayne with 17 points.
The Redskins held off the Saints in the first semifinal. North Side held a 43-28 lead in the third quarter, but Dwenger (5-1) managed to trim the margin to 57-51 with 2:15 left on a layup from Mike Fiacable, who scored 11 points.
TreVion Crews, who led the Redskins with 19 points, hit 4 of 5 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
We talk all the time that basketball is a game of runs and hopefully we can endure the runs they make during the course of a game, North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq said. We knew Dwenger is not the type of team thats going to lay down. I am glad we were able to persevere at the end.
Kyle Hartman led the Saints with 13 points.
The SAC tournament is sponsored by SportONE Ortho Northeast.