SHOOTER: Change has come to the SAC and Kathryn Knapke was the catalyst

Bishop Luers senior Kathryn Knapke scored 24 points Thursday evening in the Knights' upset win over Homestead. Can she continue her hot play in the semifinals? (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)

Things have officially changed in the Summit Athletic Conference.

Since Homestead and Carroll officially joined the conference for hoops in 2015, the girls side looked like this:

1. Homestead

2-10. Everyone else

But they had to lose eventually right? I mean you could only win so many games against SAC opponents in a row (46 to be exact), right?

Bishop Luers 47, Homestead 43. That is what the scoreboard at Wayne High School read early on Thursday evening. The run had to come to an end. But paint Shooter as shocked as anyone when it finally did. There is unbeaten South Side and once-beaten Northrop and Carroll who was oh-so close to beating the Spartans. And it was Bishop Luers that finally did Homestead in.

The old guard. SAC champions five times in seven years from 2001-2007. I can’t say I saw that coming. Anyone who says they did probably lies to you sometimes.

“We have been building for a moment like this,” Bishop Luers coach Mark Pixley exclaimed after the game. “We had to work the entire game because he [Homestead coach Rod Parker] game plans for you. You’ve got to expect that from a great coach like he is.”

Shooter remembers a girl named Kathryn Knapke from my first year with The News-Sentinel. It was also Homestead’s first year in the SAC. Knapke was just a sophomore back then, a rebounder who was aggressive and usually not much else; still finding her way. She was Kayla’s little sister. She has grown into so much more in the past season and a half, the true leader to a Knights team still considered by many as a year away from reaching their potential with a still young team trying to light their own way.

Thursday night, Knapke found a big torch and lit the way, maybe even clubbing Homestead over the head with it along the way.

“It’s just satisfying.. It just proves to us how prepared we are and shows that we have the ability and the talent to do it and it is a nice confirmation for us,” said Knapke postgame. “Luers always has this tradition of being a basketball strong school so its nice to prove that we are still that and we deserve respect in the SAC.”

Shooter doesn’t have a problem saying it: Knapke’s quarterfinal performance was the best single game performance of anyone in this year’s holiday tournament. It wasn’t close and will be hard to surpass on the final two days.

“I see that [effort] everyday. She will have games where she doesn’t score as much, but one thing consistent with Kathryn is her hustle,” Pixley said. “And when her shot is going in, she is one of the best post players in Fort Wayne, there is no doubt about that.”

Knapke involved herself in nearly every play on Thursday night and her team followed suit. When she had an extended visit to the bench in the first half with two fouls, Homestead started to widen the gap on the scoreboard. But as soon as Knapke was back in the game, the Knight came alive. Playing in that early foul trouble and more in the fourth quarter with four fouls is far from light work. Instead she took the fight to Homestead, proving more than 24 points worth as the primary catalyst in an upset that sends Luers into a Friday semi final against Carroll.

Play hard, pit-bull like defense but don’t foul. Attack the basket with the ball and grab big boards, but don’t foul. That may as well be nicknamed the “Knapke way.”

“I just have to tell myself to keep my hands up,” Knapke said of herself. “I’m not going to get blocks so I have to know to be a wall and get the rebounds. I don’t need the blocks, I need the rebounds.”

It is a testament to the work of the senior, often too overlooked because Luers hasn’t been considered one of the upper half teams in the SAC this season. Maybe those looks will change after Thursday’s win. If anything, the Knights have to be considered the biggest and most dangerous landmine in the conference.

“She never took one play off unless she was on the bench. Her leadership out there, she wouldn’t let these girls down at all. If we needed a big rebound, she was going to get it,” Pixley added of Knapke. “She is just a warrior and a leader and I am lucky to coach her.”

With Homestead’s exit, someone else will win their first SAC title in a number of years come Saturday. South Side last did so in 2013, Northrop hasn’t won one since 1994 and Carroll has never tasted the title in this tournament. Bishop Luers looks like the old pro. They last won the tournament in 2005 and their 54 all-time tournament wins and nine titles are both tops in tournament history.

But now one of those four teams will win this year’s SAC Holiday Tournament because the SAC has officially changed again. And yes, her teammates and coaches played a major role, no downgrading that. But if you really want to thankful for the change, you can probably thank Kathryn Knapke.

Follow Shooter on Twitter at Shooter_ns

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