Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball coach Tom Souder has stressed to his team throughout the season the importance of making free throws.
Souder said the Wolves learned that lesson firsthand in two contrasting games last week.
On Jan. 15, Kilbourne made 23 of 31 foul shots in a 65-55 victory at Big Walnut. Wing player Ryan Adolph scored eight of his game-high 18 points at the foul line, post player Mike Chambers had 13 points and 13 rebounds and guard Seth Hill scored 10 points.
But Jan. 18, the Wolves made only six of 11 free throws and suffered a 55-44 home loss to Westerville South in an OCC-Cardinal Division game, despite 21 points from Hill.
"We've got to get to the foul line more than 11 times a game and that's been a problem for us all year," Souder said. "We need to attack the basket the same way we did against Big Walnut because you can see how much more effective we are when we get to the foul line consistently.
"We couldn't get anything going with our offense against Westerville South because of their physical defense, and we played too fast. We needed to rip the ball through and attack the basket. We finally did attack the basket and we made it to the foul line five times in the fourth quarter, and that's when we were more effective and scored 17 points."
Wing player Tyler Stern-Tucker, a 6-foot-8 University of Findlay recruit, didn't play against South after dislocating his left shoulder in the fourth quarter of the Big Walnut game.
"One of Big Walnut's players pulled my arm back when I had my hands up for a rebound and my shoulder popped out, so I had to put it back into place," Stern-Tucker said. "I'll wear a brace and see how it feels day-to-day before deciding when I'm going to play again."
After Stern-Tucker dislocated the same shoulder in November, an MRI revealed he eventually will need to have surgery to repair a torn labrum.
"I commend the fact that Tyler wants to continue playing with his teammates and has decided to have his shoulder surgery after our season is finished," Souder said. "He's an important part of our team and we're looking forward to getting him back on the floor."
The Wolves will play league games Friday, Jan. 25, at Westerville Central and Tuesday, Jan. 29, at home against Hilliard Darby.
Kilbourne lost to Central 54-53 on Dec. 14 and to Darby 52-41 on Dec. 18.
"These are teams that we felt like we should have beat the first time we played them," Stern-Tucker said. "We need to improve our communication on the floor and play better defense when we play them again."
Cardinals finish strong to beat UA
Thomas rallied from a six-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat Upper Arlington 49-43 in an OCC-Central game Jan. 18 at home, as the Cardinals outscored the Golden Bears 16-4 over the final seven minutes.
Point guard Will Hill had 25 points and five assists and forward Tyrrell Stewart scored nine points to help Thomas avenge a 60-58 overtime loss Dec. 7 at UA.
"This was a huge win in front of a large and loud home crowd," coach Bob Miller said. "Will Hill did a tremendous job offensively and we made our free throws down the stretch. Upper Arlington has two outstanding players in Danny Hummer and Kevin Vannatta, and (forward) Jay Smallwood did a great job defending against them, starting with Vannatta and then switching to Hummer in the fourth quarter after he had a huge game."
The Cardinals will play another tough league game Friday, Jan. 25, at Westland.
Thomas defeated Westland 64-53 on Dec. 14 as Hill scored 21 points and guard Lance Leslie scored 18.
The Cougars entered the week 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Central.
"Westland's been on a real run ... and they're probably the hottest team in our league right now," Miller said. "Westland has more talent than they've had in several years and they play much better at home than they do on the road, so this game will be a big challenge for us, even though we've been playing very well, too."
Miller said his team will look to score in transition when possible, but he emphasized the Cardinals need to develop a more consistent offensive presence inside.
"We want to sprint with the ball to take advantage of our players' speed," Miller said. "Will Hill does a great job of putting pressure on defenses, and he and Lance Leslie are both scoring well. But we need at least one more consistent scorer, and we need to score better in the post."