Some nights the ball just doesn’t go in the basket, so teams must find a way to win.
That was the case for both Lutheran High and Crofton on Tuesday night during a game in which the team with the lower field goal percentage — by 10 percentage points — won the game in overtime.
When the Eagles’ Tanner Koss stepped to the free-throw line with eight-tenths of a second remaining in the extra period, he had made 1 of 8 field goal attempts and two of his four free-throw chances. After missing his first of two tries, the senior swished the second to secure Lutheran High’s 48-47 win and help the Eagles improve to 11-5 on the season.
“There have been some games where we just had to grind it out and find a way,” Lutheran High coach Kenny Blank said. “And tonight we were fortunate enough to find a way to get the win.”
The Eagles made just 14 of 46 attempts from the field (30%), while the Warriors managed to make 17 of their 42 tries (40%), but Lutheran High’s advantage became five 3s to one for Crofton and two more made free throws in the win.
“We missed a lot of shots. I think maybe their defensive pressure did maybe cause us to get a little bit out of rhythm,” Blank said. “But we did get some good looks that we normally hit.”
Another issue for Lutheran High was the early departure of senior Ben Gebhardt, who hit a first-quarter 3 but soon after was shaken up and left the game after a collision with a teammate.
“Ben might have been a mismatch for them, and we were missing Grant Colligan, who’s been sick, so that shortened up our rotation,” Blank said. “We go from nine players to seven in a hurry, and we also had some foul trouble, but we did have a couple guys step in and give us some minutes when we needed it.”
Crofton — which entered the game 4-11 and seeking to end a seven-game losing string — battled to a 23-17 halftime lead, then led by six again two minutes into the third period, at 25-19, following a steal and assist by Justin Potts to Jayden Eilers.
But a second-half adjustment by Lutheran High to work the ball inside sparked a 12-5 run and, after three tie scores, provided the Eagles with a 31-30 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“They’re a switching team, so we wanted to try to ‘slip’ (the screen) to confuse them on the switch,” Blank said. “With them playing behind, we thought we could get the ball in the post. A couple times we did, and they made a good adjustment late third and early fourth to cause more trouble, but fortunately that got us a little momentum after being down six at the half.”
In the fourth quarter, a trend that had been evident early in the game became a problem for both teams — free-throw shooting. Each team had opportunities to pull away from six more tie scores with an advantage, but the Eagles made just 9 of 17, while Crofton made only 9 of 18 the rest of regulation as well as the four-minute extra period.
Coincidentally, Lutheran High’s 48-47 lead at game’s end was the only time the Eagles had the lead during the overtime and was the result of the Warriors’ final play of the game going awry, which put Koss on the line for the game winner.
Crofton coach John Connot’s timeout with 36 seconds remaining resulted in an unsuccessful drive to the basket by Andy Knapp, whose teammates failed to clear their defenders to the other side of the floor in time, leaving a crowded lane for Knapp to attempt to navigate.
During a scramble for the rebound after the missed shot, Koss was fouled and sent to the free-throw line with time returned on the clock.
“I told the guys after the game that it’s one of those things that came down to a last-second call by the official with .8 left, which is tough, but it came down to free throws and it shouldn’t have come down to that,” Connot said. “We were 12 of 27 from the line. If you make free throws, it doesn’t come down to a last-second call and probably doesn’t even go into overtime.”
Crofton 7 16 7 12 5 — 47
Lutheran High 10 7 14 11 6 — 48
Crofton (4-12): Austin Tramp 1-1 1-2 3, Justin Potts 1-4 0-0 2, Payton Bartels 4-9 3-5 11, Jayden Eilers 2-7 2-6 6, Mayson Ostermeyer 4-6 0-0 8, Paul Burbach 2-6 4-10 8, Andy Knapp 3-10 2-4 9. Totals: 17-42 12-27 47.
Lutheran High Northeast (11-5): Cort McKeown 2-5 8-10 12, Brady Jackson 3-8 1-2 7, Haydyn Beaudette 1-5 0-0 3, Ben Gebhardt 1-2 0-0 3, Mason Petersen 0-1 1-2 1, Tanner Koss 1-8 3-6 6, Jaxson Kant 5-12 2-4 13, Trystan Scott 1-5 0-1 3. Totals: 14-46 14-24 48.