Jackson hits free throws when it counts vs. Mules

Thursday, February 22, 2007

ARNOLD -- Free throws were an adventure for the first 31 minutes of the MSHSAA Class 5 District 1 semifinal game between Jackson and Poplar Bluff Wednesday night.

The two teams combined to make just 12 of 34 tries during that stretch.

But with the game on the line, top-seeded Jackson converted four free throws in a row in the final 22 seconds and escaped with a 59-53 victory over the Mules.

Jackson looks for its first district title since 1997 when it faces second-seeded Hillsboro at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Fox High School.

"We didn't do a good job of shooting free throws during the game," Jackson coach Darrin Scott said. "I always tell the guys that free throws will win close games."

That was the case Wednesday night, when Hunter Grantham and Jake Leet hit free throws in the final minute.

But it was a field goal by Grantham after two missed free throws which may have been the pivotal play of the game. That happened with 1:56 to play and the Indians up 52-49. Antonio Garritano missed two free throws but Grantham grabbed the rebound off the second miss and converted a field goal.

"Me and Antonio get pumped up in those kinds of situations," Grantham said. "It's the feeling of let's get the ball."

Grantham was more comfortable doing that than he was at the line with 22 seconds left and his team hanging on to a 55-53 lead.

"That's probably a spot where you would rather have a guard shooting," Grantham said. "There was some pressure but I just went up there and shot. I'm a better player if I am not thinking out there."

Leet iced the game with his two free throws with 12 seconds left.

Spencer Goodman scored 10 points in the third quarter and Steven Spradlin came off the bench with three field goals that helped Jackson pull away from a 25-23 halftime lead The Indians led 46-33 with 1:06 to play in the third quarter after a three-point play by Garritano.

But Poplar Bluff got the deficit down to single digits going into the fourth quarter and made things interesting down the stretch. Freshman Jay Raulston scored seven fourth-quarter points for the Mules but he missed five consecutive free throws.

Goodman had 14 and Leet 10 to pace a balanced Jackson attack.

"I think this kind of game will prepare us for Friday night," Grantham said. "I think we under-estimated this team and you can't do that. We got our wake up call."

JACKSON 59, POPLAR BLUFF 53

Poplar Bluff1491416=53
Jackson1692113=59

POPLAR BLUFF (53) -- Jay Raulston 16, T.J. Stonecipher 13, Jordan Chaligoj 12, Skyler Holeman 6, Riley Raulston 2, Zach Ferguson 2, Asa Wyatt 2. FG 22, FT 7-19, F 19. (3-pointers: Chaligoj 2. Fouled out: none).

JACKSON (59) -- Spencer Goodman 14, Jake Leet 10, Hunter Grantham 9, Antonio Garritano 8, Steven Spradlin 8, Matt Lang 5, Marcus Harris 3, Aaron Floyd 2. FG 22, FT 9-19, F 24. (3-pointers: Goodman 3, Lang, Harris. Fouled out: Garritano).

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