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Can free throws be made on a consistent basis?

January 25, 2010
By MIKE MATHISON

I've seen the quotes.

"It's not like we don't work on free throws in practice. We work on them all the time."

Too many high school basketball coaches are saying this about free throw shooting.

Free throw shooting is not always bad, it's just not always good.

Between football, basketball and baseball, basketball is the sport you can practice by yourself.

You need a partner to play catch, but you can spend hours by yourself working on your shooting and ball handling.

Made free throws win games.

Missed free throws lose games.

Not all the time, mind you, but more times than not.

Our girls team at Jefferson County Christian lost a game in overtime as we went 18-for-41 from the line.

I've lived it.

Saturday night, the Edison and Steubenville Big Red girls basketball teams combined to go 25-for-28, a whopping 89 percent.

Saturday afternoon, Harrison Central's Megan Albaugh and Brooke Shultz were 18-for-22, 82 percent.

Big Red went 12-for-12 in a nine-point victory. Being that good from the free throw line basically eliminates a defensive strategy - fouling and sending a team to the line.

If an opposing coach knows the team is hot from the free throw line, that coach usually would much rather bank on that team missing outside shots.

If Steubenville was 4-for-12, it is now a much closer game and my guess is Edison coach Tony Kovalesky would have made sure there was a parade to the line on each Big Red possession.

The Wildcats went 13-for-16 and that ensured Steubenville coach Phil Casinelli's plea to his squad to make sure they didn't foul with the lead. Fouling would have stopped the clock and given the Wildcats some free points.

Unfortunately, this type of free throw shooting is the exception, not the rule.

I do not expect kids to do what Paul Cluxton did in the 1997-98 season for Northern Kentucky, when he made all 94 of his attempts.

I do not expect a performance like Michael Williams, who holds the NBA record of 97 made free throws in a row.

Dominique Wilkins went 23-for-23 in a 1992 NBA game.

Jerry West holds the NBA record for most made free throws in a season at 840 in 1965-66, when he shot 86 percent from the line.

But, this 12-for-30, 2-for-11, 6-for-31, 15-for-27, 9-for-20, 20-for-38, 13-for-28, 4-for-11 stuff has to stop.

In the 16 games played Friday and Saturday, teams were 343-for-603, a sultry 56.8 percent.

Overall - terrible.

There were other solid performances, like 14-for-17, 29-for-36, 7-for-10, 11-for-15, 6-for-8, but, again, it's not the rule.

Shooting better than 70 percent is a great number.

Making two-thirds of your free throws works. In the above-mentioned 603 attempts, 61 more free throws needed to be made to get to 67 percent.

It is painful to watch Ben Wallace try to make a free throw. Ever see Chuck Hayes attempt one?

Wilt Chamberlain was terrible as is Shaq O'Neal. Chamberlain once missed 578 free throws in the 1967-68 season, when he went 354-for-932, a brutal 38 percent.

The cutoff date for the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference girls basketball tournament is one week from today and teams in Class AAAA are set, although their placements are not.

Finishing in the final four are Big Red, Indian Creek, Wheeling Park and John Marshall. They currently sit in that order. But, with a week to go, it will be interesting to see where they finish.

Zanesville, Parkersburg South and Cambridge, a combined 35-6, will not play in the tournament because they have not played enough games against OVAC opponents.

The Redskins are the two-time defending champions.

St. Clairsville, Weir, Edison and Oak Glen are the top four in Class AAA, with 9-3 Meadowbrook not qualifying. Harrison Central is fifth with a chance to catch the Golden Bears.

The Wildcats play five games in eight days and that begins tonight when they host St. Clairsville.

Shadyside, Fort Frye, Monroe Central and Wheeling Central are in Class AA and it will be a tall order to beat the Tigers. Monroe Central is the two-time defending champs.

Bridgeport, Beallsville, St. John Central and Cameron are the top four in Class A, but this is the tightest race.

Bridgeport and Beallsville are in.

But, teams in third through sixth are separated by slim margins - St. John Central (25.6), Cameron (24.6), Madonna (23.7) and Bishop Donahue (23.5).

Trinity Christian (11-1) and Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans (8-4) are not eligible.

Also, as the OVAC tournament committee gets together to pair up teams not in the top four, please look outside of the box. I still believe it's OK to pit a Class AAAA school against a Class A school if proximity and records allow.

For instance, if the Toronto boys basketball team does not make it into the top four as of the Feb. 8 cutoff date (which it still has a really good chance to do), I see no reason why the Red Knights cannot play Edison.

In the two years, the Wildcats have played Brooke twice, Beaver Local and Barnesville.

Toronto has gone against Buckeye Trail, River and Beallsville twice.

Of course, one of the problems with the tournament is the Buckeye 8 or other leagues and the committee making sure those teams do not play each other for the third time, unless they are in the top four.

An interesting note from my perspective is that the Weir High and Magnolia boys teams have a chance to play five times in less than two months.

Finally, we do not have to listen to two weeks of Brett Favre and Rex Ryan preparing for the Super Bowl.

Anyone surprised Favre threw an interception nullifying his team a chance at a victory?

We get Manning vs. Brees.

I am looking forward to a great shootout - kinda like Cardinals vs. Packers.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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