Belaire High boys basketball coach Chauncey Moore, and Tara High’s Marqus Mitchell were in agreement following Tuesday night’s District 6-4A game. Free-throw shooting made the difference.
Both teams shot well under 50 percent from the floor, but Tara made 28 of 35 free throws keeping Belaire at arms length most of the way in a 51-37 win at Belaire.
“Horrible free-throw shooting. That’s the best way I can sum it up,” Moore said after Belaire made 12 of 32 at the free-throw line. “We didn’t make our free throws, and they made theirs. That’s the name of the game.”
Terrence Johnson topped Belaire (13-12, 1-2) with 13 points, and Terrence West added 12. The loss was the seventh in eight games for Belaire, which lost 54-49 to the Trojans at the Tara tournament Dec. 27.
Paul Johnson hit 13 of 15 free throws and finished with 16 for Tara (12-12, 1-2). Derrick Thomas scored nine, and Youry White pitched in five steals and six points.
“All week our guys shot maybe a thousand free throws,” Mitchell said. “I challenged them (to make free throws) and it finally paid off. It’s finally coming together for us.”
Belaire made 11 of 37 field goal attempts, but Tara had just as much trouble hitting on 11 of 41. Free-throw shooting was just what Tara needed.
“I was nervous about this game,” Mitchell said. “Coach Moore does a great job at strategy. I’ve never seen him play zone as long as he did tonight. It kind of slowed us down.”
Tara opened the game looking as if it could do nothing right. Derrick Thomas grabbed the opening tip and immediately went to the basket for a dunk. Thomas misfired, and was called for a technical after hanging on the rim.
White lost Tara’s first defensive rebound out of bounds, and then missed three shots in the lane on the Trojans’ second offensive possession.
Two minutes into the game, Thomas made a pair of free throws to put Tara on the board. It was a theme that played steady throughout the game. Tara struggled from the field but found success at the foul line.
The Trojans made nine of 10 free throws and led 16-14 after one quarter.
In the second, Tara moved out to a 25-17 lead after Paul Johnson hit a pair of free throws. Jaylen Williams and Clifton Green each hit jumpers to give Tara a 29-21 halftime lead.
Tara outscored Belaire 9-1 over the first five minutes of the third quarter, and Belaire went on to lead 39-24 going into the fourth.
Belaire got as close as 42-33 on Terrence Johnson’s follow shot with 4:18 left, but Tara then hit four free throws. Belaire never got the deficit under 10 again.
“Hopefully we can build on this, but it’s a talented district,” Mitchell said after Tara recorded its first district win of the season.
“This gets us started, and hopefully we can continue and build on it.”