If free throws were a problem for the Summit High boys' basketball team before, it didn't show Saturday afternoon on the Tigers' home court.
The team not only played aggressive enough ball against the Delta Panthers (6-4 overall; 4-1 Western Slope) to put themselves at the charity stripe, they also threw 82 percent from the line, which helped them on their way to defeating the Western Slope leader, 66-53.
"We played really aggressive today. We attacked, we went after things. I think our aggressiveness was more consistent. That helps us get to the free throw line and we made our free throws," head coach Phil Tronsrue said. "Finally, today, we played a whole game. We pushed it out. I thought we were solid for the most part. Obviously, we have some things to work on."
The Tigers (2-10 overall; 2-6 Slope) mostly maintained a lead over the Panthers, though it became a nailbiter throughout the second half. Summit emerged from halftime with a 12-point lead, which closed up when the team allowed Delta a four-point run.
Markeith McDonald responded with a basket and a foul for an additional point to boot. He finished with a game-high 19 points, which Thomas DeBonville matched in his own game. Captain Coy Coker tallied 14 points.
The team meshed on Saturday, being in position for defense and playing fairly clean ball, not sending too many Panthers to the line. They also positioned themselves where they needed to be for solid plays that sunk baskets and rebounds when they didn't. Like when Coker shot for three, and the miss ended up in McDonald's hands to be tucked in for two in the third quarter.
The Panthers tried to frustrate the Tigers with tight defense and several steals, but didn't convert. The team started looking to three-pointers toward the end, but few were quality shots except for Robin Milabo's basket toward the end of the fourth quarter.
"No fouls," was the motto of team leader Coker as the clock ticked down to end the game. Even when the Panthers stepped to the line, though, the accuracy wasn't as high as Summit's.
"I've been telling these guys we can play with everybody in this league. Obviously, that's the case today. I'm not sure we led from start to finish, but we controlled the game from close to start to finish, and they are the league leader. They were undefeated. We can do it, if we can get on a roll," Tronsrue said. "Telling them and them believing it are two different things. Hopefully now, they can believe it. ... Today, this was it."
Panthers coach Von Mitchell recognized it, too.
"We just wanted to play like we normally play and Summit played a great game," he said.
Emphasis on great.
"You just try to be who you are. We were a little out of that today, but we don't have any excuses. They played a great game. We were a little off today, but (Summit) had a lot to do with that," Mitchell added.
Tronsrue hopes his team can carry the momentum into Tuesday's 7 p.m. home game Tuesday against Eagle Valley. Last time, the match-up ended in a 66-55 loss to the team with a 9-2 overall and 5-1 Slope record.
Despite a low-scoring game that was plagued by turnovers, the junior varsity boys' basketball team hung with Delta until the fourth quarter, when the Panthers went on a run toward the 46-32 win.
Just before the halftime buzzer, Delta's Josh Garcia sunk a three-pointer to put the Panthers in the lead, 22-19. The score remained close through the third quarter, which Summit finished in the lead, 25-24, thanks to a two-pointer from Jack Anderson.
But, midway through the fourth quarter, the Panthers took off and sealed the deal by 14 points.