Nasir Tucker stood at the free-throw line, watched by expectant eyes.
The senior for the Bexley High School boys basketball team raised the ball, took aim and released his shot, which drew nothing but net.
Cheers and fist-pumps followed, not from a game-day crowd but from his teammates because practice had come to a close. Had he missed the free throw, Tucker would have joined his teammates in post-practice running. Instead, the Lions were done for the night.
Coach Todd Phillips sent the right player to the foul line since Tucker led the team with an 83.3 free-throw percentage through 12 games, making 15 of 18 attempts. The 5-foot-8 guard is on a mission to eclipse the Lions' top free-throw percentage for a season: 91.7 percent by Bill Hoyer in 1985-86.
"Free throws are important and it's something I take pride in," Tucker said. "I want to be able to put my name out there on that (program-record) board."
Tucker also is a perimeter threat for the Lions, who were 9-4 overall and 2-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division after defeating Worthington Christian 59-57 on Jan. 12. Tucker, who was coming off a career-best performance when he scored 22 points and was 4-for-4 on 3-point attempts in a 44-38 victory over St. Charles on Jan. 5, had 18 points with three 3s against the Warriors.
Tucker scored 21 points with five 3s on Jan. 4 in a 61-36 victory at Washington Court House Miami Trace.
"Free throws and 3-point shots are kind of similar," said Tucker, who averaged 9.8 points and shot 19-for-59 on 3s (32.2 percent) through 12 games. "A free throw is really the same thing as shooting a 3. You use your legs and put a lot of arch on your shot. When you see the ball go through the net, it's a good thing. When you shoot a 3, it should go through the net every time, but it comes down to repeating yourself.
"I know when they are going in when I release and I know when I miss. It's a feeling when I release it from my fingertips. I just know when it's going in."
Against St. Charles, the Lions lost junior guard Damian Davis to a left knee injury. Phillips said Davis did not have an ACL tear and the team was awaiting the results of an MRI to determine how much time one of Bexley's top scoring threats would miss.
"I figure Damian will be out at least two weeks and Nas will have a bigger role," said Phillips, whose team played Bloom-Carroll on Jan. 15. "Ironically, he found his stroke when we needed it (against Miami Trace and St. Charles), and he really has done a great job in practice.
"His form might not be the best of what you might see in the area, but he's a shot maker. He doesn't think too much; he just catches it and shoots it. He's one of those kids who kind of has a short memory and you need that as a 3-point shooter. He always has been a good free-throw shooter for us."
Tucker said an attitude adjustment has been the difference between his junior and senior seasons. Last year, he bounced between varsity and j.v. and averaged 3.3 points.
"Last year, I had a bad attitude," he said. "I wasn't playing much and that was from my attitude. I was a liability, but I worked hard over the summer and worked hard to fix that. I have to be more of leader for the team and be more vocal because I'm a senior."
Phillips said Tucker was going through a maturation process that most players encounter.
"Nas really has matured," Phillips said. "He has a better attitude, his body language is better and he has played a very important role for us.
"He always has been gifted, but he has battled being a consistent player year in and year out. He has learned to practice, he learned his approach and he has become a very good player."
Tucker, who would like to play at the next level but has not made a college decision, believes the Lions are beginning to hit their stride.
"The season has been going pretty well even though we need to improve on some things," he said. "We need to play at our own pace. We have to try not to let our opponents speed us up and force turnovers. We need to be more consistent on both defense and offense."
Girls basketball team wins pivotal MSL game
The girls basketball team defeated host Whitehall 40-31 in overtime Jan. 11 and is tied for the lead in the MSL-Ohio.
The Lions vaulted the Rams to tie Worthington Christian for first at 4-1. Whitehall is third at 3-2.
Bexley trailed 19-11 at halftime, but limited the Rams to a combined seven points in the third and fourth quarters and five points in overtime.
Maddy Vincent led the way with 19 points, and Emma Dressel scored eight.
Bexley was 7-6 overall after losing to Hartley 46-26 on Jan. 14.
Boys bowling team wins four of five
The boys bowling team had won four of its last five matches before facing Haugland Learning Center on Jan. 16.
The Lions were 5-4 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-C Division after defeating Worthington Christian 1,927-1,861 on Jan. 9. They also defeated Columbus West 1,600-1,257 on Dec. 17, Columbus International 1,630-1,060 on Dec. 19 and Village Academy 1,712-1,183 on Jan. 7 but lost to Marion-Franklin 1,728-1,635 on Jan. 8.
Through nine matches, Tyler Roberts led Bexley with a 180.3 average, followed by Miracle Williams (159.3) and Zach Herman (148.7).
Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley boys basketball, girls basketball, boys bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Whitehall. The Lions lost to the Rams 38-21 on Dec. 8.
*Jan. 19 -- At Grandview. The Lions defeated the Bobcats 39-21 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Licking Heights
*Jan. 23 -- Columbus Academy at HP Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 18 -- Academy Invitational
Jan. 19 -- Wellington at Columbus Aquatics Center
Jan. 19 -- Ron Thomas Sr. Invitational at Jonathan Alder