Freebies carry Comets to OT victory
GARWIN – With his two top scorers and another starter nailed to the bench because of fouls, it would have been easy for BCLUW coach Austin Schlatter to throw in the towel Friday night on the road against GMG.
The first-year coach though had confidence in his bench and they eventually believed in themselves as the Comets rallied from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the host Wolverines in overtime.
BCLUW scored all 10 of its extra-session points from the foul line and stunned GMG, 64-58, in a non-conference affair.
And the Comets won despite not having the services of Conner Ubben, Wyatt Gunderson and Isaac Novak in overtime. The BCLUW trio fouled out in regulation. Ubben still led the Comets with 19 points as he buried five 3-pointers.
“I was a little weary because those three guys are our three leaders,” Schlatter said. “But all of the guys we had in there have played before. I had confidence in them. And once the free throws started falling, they gained confidence in themselves.”
The Wolverines missed four free throws in the final 5 seconds of regulation that could have won the game without an overtime. GMG (11-9) finished 15-of-27 from the line in the game, while BCLUW was 22-of-28 overall and hit 10-of-12 in overtime.
“We’ve worked on our free throws all season long and we even try to put the guys into special drills during practice so that the free throws mean something and they are with some pressure,” Schlatter said.
On the flip side, GMG coach Dean Aldrich liked how his team attacked the basket in the game. The Wolverines just struggled to make free throws and it cost them a home win.
“We made great efforts to get to the foul line there at the end,” Aldrich said. “If we make one of those last four we probably win the game.”
BCLUW trailed at the end of the first three quarters and did not grab its first lead until sophomore Ben Neff hit two free throws to begin overtime. The 6-foot-8 Neff hit all six of his free throws in the game.
“He has struggled to make his free throws in the games this year,” Schlatter said. “But he shoots them in practice like he shot them tonight in the game. He just doesn’t miss. I told him before the game that he would make them tonight. I will do that from now on – just tell him he doesn’t have a choice.”
The Wolverines led 13-9 after one quarter as Blake Warren tallied seven early points. The lead grew to 26-15 in the second quarter following a 9-0 spurt that featured five different scorers for GMG.
Trailing 28-17, the Comets scored six of the final seven points of the half to trim their deficit to 29-23 at the break.
The first part of the third quarter was back-and-forth but GMG eventually went on a little run to push the advantage back up to nine following another bucket by Warren. He finished with 14 points but also missed the overtime session after fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
“We missed him down the stretch,” Aldrich said. “He is a senior and this is not how he wanted his last home game to go. He needs to play a little smarter though. We need him in the game.”
Ubben kept the Comets close late in the third quarter, but the Wolverines scored seven of the final nine – including a Luke Petty 3 at the horn – and led 46-37 after three.
The lead grew to as large as 11 on the first possession of the fourth quarter after a putback by Chad Plaehn. BCLUW (7-12) chipped away at the lead with strong pressure defense but still found itself down six with 2:58 to go in regulation.
“When our backs are against the wall, we play strong defense,” Schlatter said. “That is what got us back in this game tonight. We also made the easy shots we had available.”
Sophomore Ty Runge came off the bench to bury a couple of big shots for the Comets in the closing minutes. His steal and layup made it a five-point game with just more than 3 minutes to play and then his triple with 53 seconds to go cut the Wolverine lead to one.
After Plaehn made 1-of-2 from the line, Runge tied the score at the other end with a nifty drive to the bucket with 25 seconds left.
Ubben fouled out with 5 seconds to go, but GMG missed both free throws to keep the game tied. On the second miss, GMG got the offensive board and Gunderson committed his fifth foul. But the Wolverines again missed both freebies with 3.2 seconds to play.
Then, a jump ball was called on that final miss, giving possession back to the home team. The game finally reached overtime though when the last-second attempt was off the mark.
In the extra session, it was all about BCLUW’s ability to hit free throws. Lane Caster was 4-of-6 in the overtime period and Neff canned all four of his attempts as the Comets stole a victory from the favored Wolverines, outscoring GMG 10-4 in the final 4 minutes.
“I felt good because they did not have three starters in overtime, but then we took a bad shot to start overtime. After that, we just played catch up from there.”
Cole Silver was the only starter left on the floor in overtime. He finished with 10 points and was 7-for-7 from the line in the game. The Comets had an eight to one advantage in 3-pointers made.
Petty had 13 points for the Wolverines, while Plaehn added 11 and Bridger Claassen had nine.
GMG still has two more regular season games to play before starting Class 1A postseason. Friday was BCLUW’s regular-season finale as the Comets head to the playoffs with a date against Valley Lutheran on Monday. “I feel good heading into postseason,” Schlatter said. “We clawed our way back in this game and used guys we don’t normally use down the stretch. We dealt with a ton of adversity tonight and that is what the tournament is.” … The Wolverines will play at Don Bosco today and then will travel to Cedar Valley Christian on Monday. … The loss snapped a two-game win streak for GMG. BCLUW ends the regular season with two straight wins. … Gunderson entered the game averaging 10 points per game but made just four free throws Friday. Neff, though, picked up the slack, scoring nine points over his average.