Sometimes free throws can win a game and sometimes they can lose a game. On Saturday night, free throws did both.
Stanfield Tiger Devin Bailey sunk a pair of 1-pointers in the final seconds of his team’s Blue Mountain Conference victory over Weston-McEwen to put the final touches on a 63-60 game. Seconds earlier, TigerScot Dallas Reich had nailed a 3-point shot with his team down by four and got a chance to add to it when he was fouled on the landing.
But that free throw avoided the inside of the rim.
“I don’t know what it is about our games with (Weston-McEwen), but they always seem to come down to a few free throws,” said Bailey, recalling a game against the TigerScots the season before in which he had to make a trifecta of late charity shots to help his team win. He hit them all.
The senior made 11 of 12 attempts on Saturday night in a larger sample size for Stanfield (8-5, 2-1 BMC).
The TigerScots (8-5, 3-1 BMC) — who suffered their first conference loss in the game — did have another chance after Bailey made it a 3-point game but a well-guarded shot by Reich from way outside came up short.
Reich, the TigerScots’ senior playmaker, is the go-to shooter when the game is on the line, TigerScots coach Brian Pickard said. Unfortunately, for the boys from Athena, the Tigers knew that, too, and had three players occupying every free inch around him.
After a double-overtime thriller against Irrigon on Friday, Pickard said he’d hoped some of that energy would leak into Saturday’ game. Instead, Weston-McEwen often looked lost early before battling back from an eight-point deficit in the third quarter. A huge size advantage for the visitors went underutilized.
“We would throw it inside and score or get fouled like three or four times in a row, then we would quit doing it altogether,” Pickard said.
While Bailey was the leading Tiger scorer on the night at 19 points, Reich accounted for 22 for the TigerScots. When he and Weston-McEwen were making their late game charge, Stanfield got three straight crucial possessions with Dino Ibarra’s finger prints all over them. The senior scored a pair of baskets and assisted on another to keep his team in the lead.
“We were pumped up and we knew how to win a tough game,” Ibarra said.
Saturday’s outcome means both teams are lurking just behind Pilot Rock (4-0 BMC) in the Blue Mountain standings.