If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as the saying goes, but for Cottage Grove, Friday night’s game revealed that it may be time to fix its free throw shooting.
“Right now, I know I got to work on my free throws because I was broke,” said Cottage Grove’s Erick Giffen.
But despite Giffen going six-of-15 from the free throw line – with all of them coming in the fourth quarter and overtime – he was able to lead the way for the Lions (8-4) to get an overtime victory against Stayton (4-9) in their home opener on Friday night.
“We could have put that game away or we could have brought ourselves out of a hole but the thing I was happy about the free throws – not the missed ones, I didn’t like the missed ones – that we were getting to the line,” said Cottage Grove head coach Nick Finley. “We shot zero free throws in the first half and 33 in the second and overtime.”
Finley noted that his team has “no business missing free throws” and that each day at practice the team shoots anywhere from 75 to 100 free throws.
“I would guess that we would shoot more free throws than any team in the state in practice,” said Finley.
While the Lions weren’t getting to the line early, the Lions went up 24-14 in the second quarter before the Eagles took over the game. A dunk by Stayton’s 6’8" post Kaleb Anundi sparked a 14-2 run that was capped by a pair of Jordan Butler three-pointers to give the team a 28-26 lead at halftime.
Behind the post presence of Anundi and the 6’7 Riley Nichol, who finished with 21 and 17 points respectively, the Eagles got their lead up to as many as nine in the third quarter before the Lions were able to respond.
“Ideally we counter their height with our speed and our athleticism,” said Finley about his undersized team.
The combination of Cottage Grove’s guards applying pressure to Stayton’s backcourt and Lions’ 6’5" Jordan Hagewood and 6’6" Austin Cardwell disrupting Stayton’s bigs, the Lions were able to force turnovers. The Lions ended with 14 steals on the game, including five from Jesse Ellingworth.
Shooting 17 free throws in the fourth quarter, including DeJean Alonzo going four-for-four from the line, the Lions were down three with 40 seconds left. After Giffen missed a pair at the line, a Lions' rebound set him up for a three pointer that tied the game. Giffen finished five-of-11 from three-point range.
After Stayton hit a pair of free throws to take a lead, Giffen drove to the lane where he missed two more shots from the line. Another Cottage Grove rebound led to Giffen yet again drawing a foul and this time hitting two free throws with 10 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
The overtime opened with Cottage Grove’s Trenton Grover splashing home a three which would be the Lions only field goal during the extra four minutes of play. In overtime the Lions went nine-of-fourteen from the line with Jordan Hagewood leading the way going four-for-six. The Eagles didn’t go away easy as they hit two threes in overtime, but it was not enough and the Lions locked in a home win.
“We’ve got a lot to work on but I just – the kids are great. They just fight. They just keep fighting, they don’t want to quit,” said Finley.
After playing Gladstone yesterday, the Lions now prepare for the start of league-play which begins Friday with Sisters (7-6) at home.