ROCKFORD — Boylan beat East 52-49 Friday night from the free throw line.
But the Titans did so in a way that was so un-Boylan-like, yet also completely Boylan.
Getting East out of position
Boylan hadn’t made a free throw in 30 minutes until Tyler Hood (7 points) made 1 of 2 to tie the score with 90 seconds left. Nolan Brauns then raced down the floor and was fouled, making both free throws to put Boylan ahead 50-49 — six seconds after East had taken the lead.
“We take the lead, and we get ourselves out of position and they make free throws to win the game when we had not been doing that all game,” said a frustrated East coach Roy Sackmaster.
Forcing the action
On Boylan’s next possession, Joe Appino (7 points) also got to the line by driving to the basket after a missed mid-range jumper by 6-foot-5 junior guard Matthew Hoarde, who led East with 16 points. Appino missed the front end of his 1-and-1.
But the point is, he gave himself a chance. After being 0-for-1 on free throws since Luke Leombruni scored Boylan’s first two points of the game from the line, the Titans got to the line on their final four possessions of the game.
“At halftime, our coach told us to get downhill more and go through somebody,” Hood said. “We were kind of passive in the first half. The second half, we tried to get to the basket harder and finish.”
“That’s how we play,” said Brauns, who tied Tristian Ford for Boylan's scoring lead with 8 points. “We like to play fast, keep moving the ball down the floor before they can get back on defense. We took it to their chest and got to the line. The calls weren’t going our way the first half, but we knew we were eventually going to get the calls. We were going to get to the line.”
Being in the right position
With 90 seconds to play, Boylan had 20 fouls to East’s seven and the E-Rabs had a 23-3 edge in free throws attempted.
But at the end, Boylan didn’t foul. East did. And, just as important, Boylan didn’t let East get to the rim. Hoard missed a 17-foot jumper and an off-balance layup on East’s last two possessions. His final miss coming with one second left and East down 50-49.
Sackmaster said East is usually good at dribble drives to the basket, which can be especially important in the final seconds.
“Boylan did a good job of taking that away from us," Sackmaster said. "The game of basketball, it’s amazing how if you are just in the right spot the game becomes so much easier. A lot of times we get in our own way. To summarize our team, we are getting in our own way. If they figure that out, we will be OK. There is a lot of season left.”
Boylan already has that figured out.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” Brauns said. “When it comes down to clutch time, we know what we’re doing. We’re not going to fold. We know East likes to drive to the basket, but we know where to be at the right time.”
Boylan coach Brett McAllister said the Titans, ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, “turned it up” on defense in big moments.
“We talk to our guys about playing with your feet, not your hands,” he said. “They recognized the intensity of those moments, where they have to move their feet instead of their hands reaching for the ball.”
Stealing the end of a quarter
East (4-2, 1-1 NIC-10) fell behind early, but used two big runs to take a narrow 28-26 halftime lead. The first was a 12-0 run to take its first lead, 15-14. The second was when the E-Rabs scored 10 points in a row to take a 28-24 lead late in the second quarter.
But the E-Rabs scored their final first-half point too early, with Hoarde making one of two free throws with 8.9 seconds remaining in the half. Boylan then responded with the same tactic that would win the game in the final 90 seconds. Austin Hocking (7 points) drove the length of the floor and scored on a layup at the buzzer, with an East defender standing motionless under the basket with his arms up, rather than risk drawing a foul.
“When a game is as close as that,” Hood said, “that was big. You will take every point you can get.”
Boylan (5-0, 1-0 NIC-10 after Wednesday’s game vs. Freeport was postponed by COVID) won the end of every quarter. Zach Hewitt scored his only points with a 3-pointer with one second left in the first quarter. Hocking scored at the halftime buzzer. East didn’t get a shot off in the final 20 seconds of the third quarter. And the E-Rabs settled for a tough off-balance runner by Hoarde in the final seconds of the game, while Brauns added two free throws with one second left.
“Our kids are very comfortable in those situations,” McAllister said. “This group has been in so many close games. And those big moments are not just at the end of the game. You can have big moments in the second quarter. That was big to cut the lead to two.”
Boylan won those big moments by not giving up a good shot on defense and by either getting an easy shot on offense or getting to the free-throw line.
“We want to go downhill toward the rim,” McAllister said. “We want to be very disciplined and jump stop and pump fake. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense. it makes them make a decision, whether to give up a layup or risk a foul.”
GORDY KASPER NIGHT
Coaches all around the NIC-10 wore shirts in honor of Boylan assistant coach Gordy Kasper on Friday night. Harlem coach Mike Winters and East coach Roy Sackmaster organized the event as a fund-raiser for Kasper, who recently had surgery for colon cancer. Fans were told to scan a QR code with their phones to contribute.
“It’s amazing,” Kasper, 52, said. “I am at a loss for words. It’s really special to see so many people being so kind when I am going through a tough time.”
Kasper is well-known throughout the entire league, having coached at Belvidere, Guilford, Jefferson and Boylan over the last two decades.
Kasper said there is “no evidence of the disease” after his surgery.
“Having each program help his family is a testament to Gordy and what he means to people,” Boylan coach Brett McAllister said. “He has coached hundreds of players. The respect other coaches have for him is special.”
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: IHSA basketball: Boylan beats East in final seconds of each quarter