MERRILLVILLE — Sam Snodgrass was frustrated. He won’t lie about it.
Times No. 9 Crown Point’s senior wing had two points to his credit when No. 8 Merrillville took the ball down two points with a chance to tie or win in the final 7.1 seconds.
Snodgrass was 0-of-6 shooting at that point and scored his lone two buckets at the free-throw line. He didn’t feel like he was helping much.
But on a night where nothing fell, Snodgrass stood tall. He blocked Merrillville senior guard Will Fulton’s would-be tying floater in the lane at the buzzer to secure the Bulldogs (7-4, 2-0) a 47-45 Duneland Athletic Conference road win over the Pirates (7-5, 0-2) in dramatic fashion.
“I saw there was an opportunity to make up for the bad offense I had tonight,” Snodgrass said.
Crown Point head coach Clint Swan will take it.
“If you had told me we were going to come in here and he was going to have two points and go 0-of-6 from the field I would have probably not even gotten on the bus on the way here,” Swan said. “He got the job done here tonight.”
Before the block, Crown Point senior guard Matt Hanlon hit one of two free throws the ‘Dogs lead to two. He got sent to the line after rebounding a Fulton miss and getting fouled immediately with 7.1 seconds left.
Hanlon missed the second of his two free throws but a clock malfunction forced a referee’s timeout. Merrillville sophomore standout Keon Thompson took the ball down the floor, got to the corner and handed off to Fulton for the drive.
Fulton momentarily appeared to have a step on the Crown Point defense and a lane to the basket. But Snodgrass, who stands at 6-foot-3, reached out his long left arm and blocked the shot attempt from behind.
Snodgrass untucked his jersey, pounded his chest and crossed his arms as if to say “it’s over” as he strutted back toward the Crown Point bench with the win.
“I moved a little to the side and brought my left hand out so (the referee) could see I’m not jumping over him or trying to tackle him,” Snodgrass said. “It worked.”
Swan said he figured Thompson would get the last shot, considering he had 18 points on 6-of-18 shooting to that point, but Crown Point got it out of his hands. Merrillville head coach TJ Lux said the look was fine despite the result.
“Really we had two good chances to win the game,” he said. “We knew what we wanted to do. It just didn’t work out.”
Swan knows a thing or two about swatted shots. It was half a decade ago that he coached 6-foot-10 center Jared Smoot. He towered over DAC opponents and wasn’t much of a fair matchup against undersized players.
Snodgrass, Swan said, is cut from the same cloth and it paid dividends Friday night.
“Sam Snodgrass is one of the best shot blockers I’ve ever seen,” Swan said. “That’s not unusual. I was not surprised to see him block that shot. I’m surprised he didn’t block the next-to-last shot. He can really defend shooters. He did there at the end. It was just a great individual play.”