Free throws and post buckets usually tell the story of a gritty, hard fought game. But in Colfax on Thursday, it was simply a tale of two halves.
The Tigerhawks of Colfax-Mingo outlasted the Saydel Eagles (1-16), 73-58, in a marathon second half that included over 30 fouls and just as many combined free throw attempts.
“The free throw game can be a big factor in a lot of games, particularly when you’re shooting two instead of the one-and-one, it allows our guys to relax a little knowing they have two shots," Colfax coach John Borts said. "(Austin) Yoakum knocked down key free throws that helped seal things up. Overall, it was a good team win.”
The game started with some good physical play inside. The entire first half was back and forth as neither team could secure a significant edge, much of this had to do with outside shooting.
Saydel came out on fire from beyond the arch. Junior Alex Gustafson hit five of his six three point attempts in the first half to lead a tremendous team shooting performance in the first half. Good ball movement and mid-range shooting by senior Connor Hainer kept the Tigerhawks close.
More threes by Saydel senior BJ Freeman and junior Kyle Walter gave the Eagles a 33-30 halftime lead.
Coming out of halftime, the Tigerhawks switched from their 2-3 zone into a box and one, putting Hainer on Gustafson and allowing the rest of the team to stay in a zone. The switch definitely made an impact, as Gustafson was unable to get clean looks and failed to connect on any of his second half attempts.
“The key to the second half was putting Connor on Gustafson in the second half. He had five threes in the first half and we know what kind of shooter he is,” Borts said.
We just weren’t doing a good enough job against him and we wanted Connor to lock in on him in the second half and he did and I think he only got two shots off in the second half. Defensively that was huge for us.”
That is when the gym started to rain foul shots. Possession after possession, Colfax fed the ball to senior Vaughn Wilson on the left block, exploiting his size advantage. He made strong moves and got to the rim as well as the free throw line. Wilson attempted eight free throws in a span of two minutes of game time. This put Saydel in the bonus with two minutes left in the third quarter.
“Vaughn was very tough for them to cover. We got the ball down low particularly on that left side. He was doing very well down there, and they were fouling him a lot,” Borts added. “He didn’t always finish but he was putting a lot of pressure on the defense at the basket, and when he’s on, he’s very tough to cover. He’s been an outstanding free throw shooter for us this year, very tough.”
More threes by the Eagles allowed them to keep the score close. Freeman nailed one more shortly before the quarter ended, and it was 48-45 going into the fourthw.
Colfax began sliding their zone better to shut down open looks from the outside, forcing Saydel to attack the paint, leading to turnovers and blocked shots by Wilson. Those big defensive plays led to easy buckets for the Tigerhawks, and a three pointer by senior Austin Yoakum gave Colfax their biggest lead of the game at 58-47 with four minutes.
That’s when the whistles started to blow. Foul after foul was called on both ends in a quarter that was dragged out to inconceivable length. The slow pace allowed Saydel to get their second wind as they began to force turnovers and hit foul shots. The Eagles pulled within three points with 15 seconds remaining. However, Wilson was able to hit his last two free throws of the night to secure the victory.
Colfax has two games coming up in the next four days. On Friday, they will go to Collins-Maxwell-Baxter and they host Eddyville-Blakesburg on Monday.