Keshawn Williams’ statement slam propels Bloom past Bloomington

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Bloom’s Keshawn Williams (11) makes his way to the basket Saturday 12-29-18. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times

PONTIAC—Bloom junior Keshawn Williams blazed down the court in the fourth quarter of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament semifinals, desperate to get a basket and stop the second-half freefall his team was in.

He saw an opening for a dunk and took it, but he got a lot more than he bargained for. Bloomington’s Chris Payton, a strong and talented 6-7 shot blocker, leapt in the air to shut him down.

“I knew was going to go for it but I didn’t think he was gonna jump and try and stop me,” Williams said. “When I saw him go up I thought he was going to block it, but he didn’t.”

Bloom’s 18-point halftime lead had shrunk to just three points. Williams was fouled by Payton on the dunk so it gave the Blazing Trojans a six-point cushion and enough momentum to pull out a 74-69 victory.

“That was maturity,” Bloom coach Dante Maddox Jr. said. “He really stepped up. His dunk, attacking the basket was a statement. That is what we needed to get back on track. He was up for the challenge.”

“[Payton] is the only person we’ve faced like that this year. He has great timing and presence. That is what made that basket by Keshawn even more special. He challenged the big guy.”

Payton, an SIU recruit, finished with 22 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

“He’s a great player,” Williams said. “I didn’t know he was that good.”

Williams had 21 points and six rebounds. He was able to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line repeatedly while Bloom’s offense struggled in the second half and Bloomington surged back into the game.

“[Bloomington] scored a lot of big buckets in the third quarter,” Williams said. “We were just trying to get stops. They just kept scoring though so I tried to help us stay composed on the offensive side.”

Donovan Newby scored 15 for the Blazing Trojans (14-0) and Dante Maddox Jr. added 15. Martice Mitchell, a 6-10 junior, had 15 points and six rebounds. He flashed some tremendous potential in the first five minutes of the game with three three-pointers, another jumper, a block, three rebounds and a steal.

“The funny thing about this team, you don’t know who it will be in any game,” Maddox Sr. said. “Yesterday it was Dante, today it was Keshawn. That is why you are a team, not just a superstar.”

Bloom will face undefeated, top ranked Curie in the title game tonight at 9 p.m. The Blazing Trojans won the tournament in 1973 and 1963 and have finished second four times.

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