At all of 5-foot-5, it is amazing to think that junior Leander Williams used to be able to dunk a basketball in middle school, prior to a leg injury that limited his jumping ability.
It is also amazing to watch the Snider forward cut and weave through taller and wider players to get to the basket. Arguably the quickest player in the area - and one of the smallest – Williams did a lot of attacking Friday in the Panthers' 64-57 victory over Concordia Lutheran.
What made the win more impressive for Snider is that not only was Williams playing with a sore knee he injured earlier in the week in practice, but leading scorer Trey'von Covington was not available due to the flu.
Williams finished with a game-high 22 points, six of which came during an 8-0 run for the Panthers midway through the fourth quarter that erased a five-point deficit.
D.J. McCall paced the Cadets with 13 points.
“We told (Leander) to stay low, go around their knees and once he started doing it and got some confidence on a couple layups, he was almost unstoppable,” Snider coach John Todor said. “A lot of people in Fort Wayne are finding out that he is a pretty good little ballplayer for 5-foot-5.”
Williams struggled with several turnovers and a few early fouls in the game's opening minutes, but he wasn't the only Snider player to have problems with Concordia in the first half. The Cadets dominated the paint in the opening two quarters, getting several of their baskets on second and third chance opportunities.
The deficit for Snider (6-5, 2-3 SAC) was just 13 at halftime, but felt much more considering the way Concordia dominated the pace and the physicality in the first half.
But the Panthers made adjustments.
“I watched a lot of video tape over these last two weeks preparing for this game and we didn't think they were a great outside shooting team except for (Austin Harris) off the bench,” Todor said. “We switched our defenses … switched to a 2-3 zone and a box-and-1 to cover (Harris.).
“No one else was looking to shoot but him (late in the game).”
Snider cut the Cadets lead to one entering the fourth quarter , with scoring going back and forth until the Panthers' 8-0 run. Concordia (11-3, 3-2 SAC) would close to within two a few times, but seven straight points in 34 seconds late in the game sealed it for Snider.
“Without Trey'von, our leading scorer, we all had to step up,” Williams said. “We had to play good defense that was the key.”
That and letting one of the quickest players in the area do his thing. He may be small and he may not look imposing, but Williams time and again zig-zagged his way through Concordia's vaunted size for baskets.
“It is fun getting up there near the basket,” Williams said.
Even if he can no longer finish with a dunk.
SNIDER 64, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN 57
Snider 9 8 22 25-64
Concordia 15 15 10 17-57
Snider: Halstead 12, Leander Williams 22, Devlyn Williams 8, Spitnale 5, Washington 13, Godfrey 2, Harvey 2.
Concordia: McCall 13, Gremaux 11, Starks 7, Gross 9, Rogers 6, Curry 2, Harris 9.