After battling back from an early 17-point deficit to make it a one-possession game in the closing seconds, the Lovelady Lions saw their season end with a heart-breaking 101-97 loss to Cross Roads Tuesday night at Frankston.
In a foul-plagued game, the Lions and Bobcats shot a combined total of 99 free throws which accounted for 64 of the 198 total points.
Cross Roads went to the free throw line 60 times and cashed in on 40 attempts (67%). The Lions knocked down 24 of 39 (62%).
"Having your opponent score 40 points on free throws is hard to overcome, but our kids almost did. The guys played extremely hard but we had some possessions that we just didn't take advantage of right at the end," said Lions Head Coach Jon Lowery.
"Free throws can be misleading sometimes because a team will be behind and have to foul a bunch at the end. But 35 of Cross Roads' free throws were in the first half," pointed out Lowery.
Trailing 31-16 after the first quarter, the Lions caught fire in the second and outscored Cross Roads 33-21 to cut the lead to 52-49 at the break.
"Our kids turned in a 33-point second quarter to pull us right back into the game. We got down by 17 early, but our kids didn't lay down. They caught another gear and fought their way back into the game."
The Bobcats carried a two-point edge, 77-75, into the final period.
"It was a back-and-forth game in the third and fourth quarters," said Lowery. "I thought it was going to overtime and we were going to have an advantage even with the three or four kids that we had fouled out."
Cross Roads made it a 4-point game at the free thow line with less than 2 seconds left.
"Before that it was a one-possession game but we just couldn't get the look that we needed to take it into overtime," said Lowery. "It was one of those games where it's sad that either team has to lose, because it was a battle."
With all the free throw shooting, the game lasted well over two hours. "Other than the stoppage of play for free throws, it was quite a spectator game. It was a barnburner," added Lowery.
Lovelady's Hunter Murray led all scorers with 35 points (2 treys). Courtell McQuirter finished with 16 points despite playing only 2½ minutes of the first three quarters after getting in foul trouble very early.
McQuirter picked up two fouls just a minute-and-a-half into the game and was called for his third foul just 30 seconds into the second. He was whistled for his fourth foul 30 seconds into the final frame but managed to stay on the floor and score 12 points.
"Courtell is our best jumper, and in basketball that counts for a lot. Him being in foul trouble the first three quarters changed our entire game plan," said Lowery.
Mason Lowery rounded out double figures with 10, followed by Jay Robinson 8, Petey Little 5, Mason Phillips 5, Jacob Jeffus 4, Kade White 4, Alex McKnight 3, Colt Robinson 3, Hunter Patton 2 and Timothy Johnson 2.
The Lions will lose five seniors—McQuirter, Lowery, White, Jeffus and Cole Cimrhanzl "We'll miss the seniors, but we've got some really talented young players coming back and I'm looking for them to make a big splash the next couple of years."