DANVILLE — In the final 39 seconds of the game, Kyler Stephens simply could not miss from the free throw line in the fifth-place game at the Vermilion County boys basketball tournament.
Stephens’ six free throws in the final minute pushed Armstrong-Potomac Trojans past Georgetown-Ridge Farm, 59-52, Saturday night.
"That’s what happens when you pick on one of the better free throw shooters on our team," A-P senior Dalton Loschen said. "I don't beleive they could have fouled us any faster."
With 1:57 left to play, the Buffaloes held a 52-51 lead on a Cale Steinbaugh bucket. It would be their final points of the game as the Trojans scored the final eight points. Loschen hit an inside bucket with 1:40 to play to give A-P the lead for good.
With the lead and the ball, the Trojans (6-16) stalled. The Buffaloes (3-17) wasted little time in fouling, sending Stephens to the free throw line again, and again and again. He hit his first pair of free throws with 39 seconds to play, another set at the 21-second mark and the final two with six seconds to play.
"We slowed the game down a little bit," Loschen said. "We stopped forcing shots that we did not need to take and concentrated on only taking high percentage shots. We could have just held the ball and ran our offense without shooting. We were well aware most of their players were in foul trouble."
The game was close the entire way and at halftime, as A-P trailed 23-21. Midway through the fourth quarter, GRF led by as many as four points, 49-45. Other than the bucket by Steinbaugh, the Buffaloes were limited to one free throw by Steinbaugh.
The start of the second half was active, and the Trojans managed to take a 30-28 lead on a Trey Wilken bucket at 5:11. They extended the lead to four points, 34-30, with 3:15 to play on a pair of Loschen free throws. GRF battled back and by scoring seven of the last nine points of the quarter, took a 40-39 lead at the end of the stanza.
Loschen finished with 21 points, 17 of which were scored in the second quarter. Austin Keen, who hit three three-pointers, had 11 points. Stephens had nine points, seven of those on fourth-quarter free throws. The Buffaloes had three athletes in double figures as Garrett Latoz led the way with 18 points. Steinbaugh tallied 13 points, while Jace Bina, another freshman, had 10 points.
"We hit those free throws when we had to hit them," Trojans head coach Deon Mennenga said. "We finished 2-2 here m, and we were happy with that. We have to take care of the ball and take care of ourselves. In the second half, we got Dalton the ball inside during the second half. Besides the free throws, that was key to winning this game. Defensively, we tried to key on their shooters and guard their three-point shooters much better than we did early in the game."