TJ Bracey has made a lot of free throws, including some clutch ones, for the Gonzaga Prep boys basketball team.
None, though, was as pivotal as the one Bracey made Friday – especially after missing the first of two.
After a second timeout to freeze him, Bracey made the winner, although it rattled around the basket before falling to give the Bullpups a thrilling 51-50 win over the visiting North Central Indians in Greater Spokane League action.
“(The timeout) gave me more time to think about it. It’s tough,” Bracey said. “On the second free throw, I was still nervous. But I knew it would go to overtime (if I didn’t make it).”
“He’s the guy we want at the line because we have a lot of confidence in him,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “We got the situation we wanted there. He never misses two in a row.”
Overtime was avoided. Still, NC had a final look, but Gunnar Swager’s 18-foot jumper fell short of the rim as the horn sounded.
G-Prep (3-1 overall, 3-0 league) struggled shooting overall, and much credit must be given to the Indians’ sticky defense.
But the Bullpups, who trailed by five points early in the fourth quarter, fought back to build their biggest lead at 50-44 with 1:34 remaining when Stephen Ferraro hit a jumper from the free-throw line.
NC (1-4, 1-3) hit four free throws, coupled with a basket by Zac Hill, to tie it at 50 with 31 seconds remaining.
G-Prep senior Chris Sarbaugh drove and jumped in the air, finding Bracey underneath where he was fouled in the act of shooting with 3.4 seconds remaining.
For the Bullpups to have a chance to defend their league championship, they’ll likely have to win a lot of tight games.
“This season’s a lot different than last year,” McIntyre said. “Hopefully, we’re on this side of those types of close games. It was a struggle and we gutted it out.”
NC coach Jay Webber doesn’t like the hole his team is in this early, but was encouraged.
“You hate to lose those types of games when we had a good chance to get them,” Webber said. “They did what they needed to do down the stretch. I thought we did a good job defensively. We made it tough on them. We’ve got to get off the schneid and got over the top here. We’re a better team than our record shows.”
Sarbaugh led G-Prep with 15 points and five rebounds. Parker Kelly added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Hill led NC with 10 points and six rebounds.
McIntyre was displeased with his team’s defense.
“I’m more concerned about our defensive effort,” McIntyre said. “I think we could have done a lot more on that end to not let the game be as close as it was. Regardless of the score, I’d like to see my guys have a little more effort and a little more intensity in their defensive approach.”
McIntyre credited NC’s defense with some of his team’s shooting woes.
“They had a great game plan,” McIntyre said. “There are some basic things that we can clean up in our halfcourt offense that aren’t major fixes but very minor fundamental things that we can improve upon.”
Ferris 67, Lewis and Clark 49: Propelled by nine points from Riley Stockton, the Saxons (2-1, 2-0) used a 22-8 run in the second quarter to separate from the visiting Tigers (0-6, 0-4).
Chris Wilson led Ferris with 19 points. Austin Dixon led LC with 11.
University 75, Rogers 73 (OT): In a battle of league unbeatens, the Titans (5-0, 4-0) prevailed over the host Pirates (3-2, 3-1).
Jared Miller led U-Hi with 25 points and Zech Martin added 20 to go with 10 rebounds. Steve Delvecchio led Rogers with 22 points and Therone Tillett had 19. Deavon Daniels chipped in 15 to go with eight rebounds.
Mead 53, Central Valley 48: The Panthers (3-3, 2-2) trailed 27-22 at halftime but used a 15-6 advantage in the third quarter to beat the Bears (2-3, 1-3) at CV.
Ryan Corker led Mead with 16 points and Tim Carter added 13. Gaven Deyarmin led CV with 17.