Free throws, any coach will tell you, can make the difference in close basketball games.
And, in some cases, such as Tuesday, they can turn close games into convincing victories.
Every one of the Granbury Lady Pirates’ fourth-quarter points in a 51-35 victory against visiting Gainesville came at the free throw line. They were 14-for-16 in the final eight minutes.
“We shoot 50 every day in practice, and you have to make 40 or above or keep shooting,” said Lady Pirate Sarah Sledge, who was 6-for-6 at the line in the fourth quarter.
Five Lady Pirates combined to hit 19 free throws (in 24 attempts) in the win. Along with Sledge, Morgan Northcutt was 6-for-8, Bryce Frank was 3-for-4, and Kennedy Shelstead and Amber Strange were each 2-for-2.
“You’ve got to have a balanced team to be successful. We showed that today shooting free throws,” said Lady Pirate coach Leta Andrews.
Granbury (12-7) took a 37-30 lead into the final quarter. After Hali Smith hit a 3-pointer with 3:19 to play, the Lady Pirates were still up by seven at 42-35.
It would be the final points of the game for Gainesville, while Northcutt would hit five free throws and Sledge would sink four to clinch the victory.
Northcutt holds the school record for consecutive free throws made, having hit 57 in a row earlier this season.
“I like for them to foul Sarah and Morgan,” Andrews said. “They are extremely good free throw shooters.”
Gainesville employed a physical style of play. In fact, after one foul Sledge was on the floor holding her head before getting up and hitting two free throws.
“That’s my way of getting them back for fouling me,” she said, rubbing the spot on her forehead. “I just go score points at the free throw line.”
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Gainesville 5 15 10 5 – 35
Granbury 9 19 9 14 – 51
Granbury (12-7) scoring – Morgan Northcutt 16, Bryce Frank 11, Kennedy Shelstead 8, Sarah Sledge 6, Amber Strange 6, Carolyne Forrest 2, Whitley Tipton 2.
3-pointers – Northcutt 2, Shelstead 2.
Rebounds – Strange 9, Frank 7.
Assists – Northcutt 3, Shelstead 3.
Steals – Northcutt 3.
2-point FG – Gainesville 9-29 (31 percent. Granbury 10-21 (48 percent).
3-point FG – Gainesville 4-17 (24 percent). Granbury 4-11 (36 percent).
Free throws – Gainesville 5-6 (83 percent). Granbury 19-24 (79 percent).
Team rebounds – Gainesville 18. Granbury 33.
Turnovers – Gainesville 13. Granbury 21.