SOUTH BEND — Chase Konieczny does not lack confidence in his basketball ability.
Why should he? The Saint Joseph freshman with skills way beyond his years put all of those on display Friday night, scoring a team-high 24 points to pace his Class 3A No. 7 Indians past Class 4A No. 14 Adams, 70-68, in a Northern Indiana Conference thriller in Alumni Gym at Saint Joseph.
But it was a pair of defensive plays by the 6-3 guard that helped the host Indians claim the league opener for both teams.
Konieczy capped his night, which was only slowed by foul trouble, by blocking a potential game-winning 3-pointer by Brittian Vann from the baseline as the final horn sounded. That defensive gem came after Konieczny had forced an Adams turnover with less than 30 seconds to play by tipping the ball away from an Eagles player from behind.
"I'm more proud of my defensive plays tonight because that's where I need to improve," said Konieczny, who also drilled a key trey with 1:15 to play to give his team a 69-63 lead. "This is a great win. Especially in front of our home crowd with them going crazy tonight."
The Eagles, who got a monster performance from Tommy Snyder, got within 69-68 when Snyder made the second of two free throws with 4.1 seconds to play. Jack Quinn then hit the second of two charity tosses for the Indians with 2.9 seconds left for the 70-68 lead.
Snyder finished with 29 points and 17 rebounds. The 6-5 senior is one of only a couple of players back with much varsity experience from a year ago. The Eagles graduated all five starters from last year's team that finished 23-2 overall and went 10-0 to win the NIC.
Saint Joseph bounced back in a big way after a tough 66-63 loss at Concord on a buzzer-beating trey Tuesday night. The Indians graduated three key starters from last year's 21-5 squad that lost in the semi-state to Leo 61-59.
Among that group was current Notre Dame freshman and 2021 Indiana All-Star J.R. Konieczny. The elder Konieczny, Chase's brother, finished his prep career as the all time leading scorer in St. Joe County boys basketball history with 1,996 career points.
"There's a lot of pressure being J.R.'s little brother and I hear about it all the time, but I just want to be my own player," said Konieczny, who had 23 points in the loss at Concord Tuesday night. "I'm going to be better than him."
First-year Saint Joseph coach Eric Gaff, who was an assistant for the Indians last year, knows he has a special one in Konieczny.
"I'm not surprised really," Gaff said of Konieczny's immediate impact from day one. "We saw him in the gym going against J.R.. We knew he was going to be good. He just looks like a seasoned player out there.
"This is a huge win for us. To knock off Adams, who has dominated the NIC the past several years. It's huge for our confidence as a team. We don't have a ton of game experience and there are going to be some growing pains."
The Indians won despite 27 turnovers. Senior guard Cole Hatkevich, one of the key players back from a year ago, was huge with 16 points including two clutch triples in the final period for the Indians.
"We need Cole to hit shots like he did tonight for us," said Gaff, who played at Concord and Grace College. "He's put a lot of time in in the gym and it shows. I also thought Declan Walsh was big for us defensively tonight."
The Indians led 28-27 at halftime despite 16 turnovers. The Eagles, who won their opener 54-53 over Michigan City Marquette back on Nov. 23, rallied to lead 48-46 going to the final period.
A huge call in the contest came with 2:01 to play and the Indians nursing a 62-61 lead. A foul call on Adams was followed by a technical whistled on the Adams bench. The Indians hit 4-4 free throws, including a pair by Konieczny, following the play to take a 66-61 lead.
Adams coach Chad Johnston did not want to offer comment on the key technical call.
"I'm really disappointed in our defense," Johnston did say after a long postgame talk with his team. "We can't win many games giving up 70 points. That's not who we are. We will get better there. That will get fixed.
"We also have to take care of the ball better in crucial situations. It got too helter skelter out there tonight at times.
"There were positives. Snyder, (Amari) Wesson, (Jeremiah) Love. I saw good things from all of them. It's going to take us a little time with our lack of experience, but I'm confident we will get better. We have a long way to go and it's a great challenge, but it will come in time."
The loss was the first in NIC play for the Eagles since an 85-70 loss to Riley in the final league game during the 2018-19 season. Adams had won its last 22 NIC contests prior to Friday night.
SAINT JOSEPH 70, ADAMS 68
At Saint Joseph
ADAMS (68): Tommy Snyder 13 2-3 29, Jeremiah Love 3 0-0 6, Rashad Simpson 2 0-0 4, Tommie Hunt 0 0-0 0, Brittian Vann 5 3-4 13, Gion Parks 2 2-3 6, Amari Wesson 3 4-7 10. TOTALS: 28 11-16 68.
SAINT JOSEPH (70): Cole Hatkevich 6 0-0 16, Chase Konieczny 9 5-5 24, Jake O'Dell 2 2-4 7, Jack Quinn 0 3-4 3, Julian Kamanda 2 0-0 4, Declan Walsh 1 2-2 4, Jayce Lee 4 2-3 11, Brashaun Woods 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24 14-19 70.
Adams | 12 | 27 | 48 | 68
Saint Joseph | 13 | 28 | 46 | 70
3-point goals: Adams 1 (Snyder), Saint Joseph 8 (Hatkevich 4, Lee 2, Konieczny, O'Dell). Shooting: Adams 28-59, Saint Joseph 24-51. Rebounds: Adams 32 (Snyder 17), Saint Joseph 23 (Konieczny 10). Turnovers: Adams 20, Saint Joseph 27. Team fouls (fouled out): Adams 18 (Love), Saint Joseph 20 (O'Dell). JV Score: Adams 66 (Gerron Barr 23), Saint Joseph 50 (Brady Mansfield 15). Varsity records: Adams 1-1 (0-1 NIC), Saint Joseph 1-1 (1-0 NIC).
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: South Bend Saint Joseph tops Adams in NIC boys basketball play