Not too long into the second half, Kaylon Williams was fouled as he dribbled out near the three-point line. The collision, uintentional, sent he and his defender to the deck.
Williams immediately grabbed for his bad knee, the tendonitis flaring up from the contact. He rolled down the sleeve, clutched the area in pain, and stood up, putting the sleeve back on.
He winced, he grimaced, but he gutted it out. Williams went to the line and calmly sank two free throws. And that was the final difference, with Milwaukee triumphing over Cleveland State, 86-84.
It was Milwaukee’s first victory since dispatching Green Bay on the road more than a week before Tuesday.
Tuesday night, the Panthers won the battle of two tough, battered teams with a a lot to lose. Milwaukee was playing to keep itself in position to host in the conference tournament. Cleveland State was trying to keep the pace with Valpo, who won over UIC after being down much of the night.
Sometimes it just doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to win or lose. Milwaukee committed most of its 14 turnovers in the final six minutes of the game, a 16-point lead dwindling down to just two. But with one second remaining, Tony Meier took an inbound pass and a foul from his Viking defender, sinking two free throws and knocking a third off the back of the rim to give Cleveland State a difficult full-court heave to win it.
The foul on Meier was peculiar, but only because of timing. By the book, it was a foul, but very few officials would make the call that Kipp Kissinger (or was it Bill Jacobsen? Pete Juzenas? It was the bald one) made, a foul on the shot by Marlin Mason with only a second remaining.
Gary Waters didn’t like the call. Come to think of it, he didn’t like many calls. When Kaylon Williams was fouled under the Milwaukee basket at the end of the first half, Waters waited until Williams was putting up a free throw to yell “You got the wrong shooter!” at the referee. That’s a technical in every level of basketball, but Kipp Kissinger let it slide. They also shrugged it off when Waters, throwing one of his patented tantrums, crossed the center court line to get an official’s attention.
The Vikings got impassioned play from Trey Harmon, who led all scorers with 27 points. At the end of the game with Meier focusing on free throws, Harmon ripped out his mouth guard and chucked it into Milwaukee’s student section, where it was fumbled and dropped into the entrance way for CSU.
Playing up for the hometown crowd was Charles Lee, who played very well in driving to the basket. Lee scored 14 points, third on the Vikings behind Harmon and Jeremy Montgomery.
Milwaukee was led in scoring by James Haarsma, who gladly took seven three-point attempts, making five of them. It wasn’t until late in the second half when Cleveland State started pressuring Haarsma on the perimeter. When it was all said and done, Haarsma was one of five Panthers in double figures. Paris Gulley, Tony Meier, Kaylon Williams and Kyle Kelm each scored over ten.
In a game where the Panthers had to fight through a battering defense, they came out on top.
Speaking of coming out on top, Kaylon Williams finally bested Marc Mitchell’s post-1990 career assists record. His seventh assist, an alley-oop bomb to Kyle Kelm, was the exclamation point on a wonderful career. It gave hope to the Panthers as they try to turn this momentum into a Horizon League Championship.