LE GRAND - It's not as exciting as the long ball or as flashy as the fast-break, but it's equally effective.
Scoring 14 of their 24 second half points from the free throw line, the BCLUW boys basketball team held off a resurgent East Marshall squad for a 48-38 victory in NICL West action Tuesday.
"The free throw line really was our saving grace tonight," said BCLUW Coach Austin Schlatter, whose squad tallied its last eight points from the line to snap a four-game slide.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
East Marshall’s Josh Wilson (44) slashes through BCLUW’s Isaac Novak (13) and Connor Ubben (11) for two points in second-half action at Le Grand Tuesday. Wilson finished with eight points, but the Comets came away with a 48-38 NICL West win.
"(East Marshall) made a couple runs and the way we stopped those runs was knocking down free throws."
In turn, the numerous trips to the charity stripe also stifled the Mustangs' preferred up-tempo pace, which helped East Marshall (1-6, 1-5) rally from a 13-point third quarter deficit to pull within two in the fourth. Ben Terrones split a pair from the line after a Walker Steward triple to bring the Mustangs within 38-36 with 3:52 to play.
Connor Ubben, who poured in a game-high 22 points, answered with a runner off the glass before the Comets clinched the win at the line.
"Connor is our guy who can make the most happen on his own. We need him to do that sometimes to lift the team," said Schlatter.
"It's not a knock on any other players, but sometimes we need a player who can step up and he's the guy that can do that for us."
Ubben's scoring prowess was on display early in the third as he nailed a jumper and a pair of 3-pointers in less than 60 seconds. The 8-0 surge stretched the Comets' cushion to 32-17 with 5:36 to go in the frame, before the Mustangs retaliated with a 15-3 flurry highlighted by back-to-back treys from Steward and Terrones to trim the deficit to 35-32 midway through the fourth.
After BCLUW dominated with their more deliberate style in the first half, the Mustangs' pressure defense allowed them to get in transition and charge back into the contest.
"We didn't have a good start and we weren't quite in the rhythm of the game, because BCLUW likes to slow it down and work possessions," said East Marshall coach Cole Anderson.
"Our kids don't really play well in the slow down game. We like to get out and run."
The long ball and transition buckets fueled the Mustangs' rally, but the home team missed its final four shots from behind the arc. Too many one-and-done possessions hurt East Marshall early as the Comets closed the opening quarter on a 8-0 run to lead 15-4. Ubben kept the Mustangs at a distance with seven more points in the second frame highlighted by a bank-in triple as BCLUW led 24-17 at the half.
Stuck in a four-game skid, Anderson believes his squad is on the brink of breaking back into the win column. And while the Mustangs flourish on the run, it's a matter of tempering that tempo from time to time.
"I told the guys in the locker room, we're right there. We just need to find a way to get across that line," said Anderson.
"We have a lot of empty possessions where guys force things. They push too much and don't make an extra pass. That's one thing we have to be smarter with moving forward."
Terrones led the Mustangs with 13 points while Steward had 11 and Josh Wilson added eight. Zack Johnson grabbed a team-high nine boards for the Mustangs.
Taking advantage of his size advantage inside to get to the line, Wyatt Gunderson tallied eight points for BCLUW with six coming from the stripe. Isaac Novak and Lane Caster scored seven apiece for the Comets (2-5, 2-5).
The Mustangs host Dike-New Hartford Thursday before kicking off the new year against Gladbrook-Reinbeck at home Jan. 4. BCLUW returns to action against Grundy Center on the road Jan. 4.