Missed free throws doom Vikings
Updated: March 23, 2011 1:22PM
It's one of those inexplicable moments that can't be explained away rationally.
John Clymer, a 78.6 percent free-throw shooter, was at the line for Valparaiso High school with four seconds left.
Game was tied. He's got to be good for at least one, right?
Both free throws were long - the second one bouncing off the back of the rim. With the second miss and the subsequent shot from about 10 feet by Adam Butterfield that bounced off the rim, all the energy the Vikings had built up seemed to leave the gym in what turned out to be an improbable 62-55 overtime victory for Merrillville.
It was a tough loss for the Vikings, who were undefeated at home coming into the game.
"I told the kids against a team as good as Merrillville, you have to do 100 little things right," Valparaiso High School coach Joe Otis said. "Tonight, we did 99."
The one little thing they didn't do that was big was make free throws.
A 70.6 percent team from the line, Valparaiso was 1-of-8 in the second half and just 8-of-16 for the game.
"This was tough for the kids," Otis said. "They really wanted to be undefeated."
Brandon Clark was the main impediment toward a perfect home slate for the Vikings.
Clark struggled in the first half scoring just two points, on 1-of-4 shooting. His 3-point attempt late in the second quarter, which drew nothing but air, earned him a seat on the bench next to Merrillville coach Jim East.
"I didn't think he played intelligently in the first half," East said.
He did much better when it counted - like when the game was on the line.
After Valparaiso had built up a seven-point fourth-quarter lead, Clark hit two bombs that were daggers.
The first one cut the lead to four with 6:17 left. That kept the Vikings at bay.
The second one, with 30 seconds left, tied the game at 53-53.
"That was a crucial shot," East said.
Said Otis: "Those are just great plays. He hit both of those with a hand in his face."
The Vikings had one solid opportunity to finish the game in regulation.
They got the ball into Jerrick Suiter's hands on the wing with less than 10 seconds left. His short jumper bounced hard off the backboard and Clymer was there to pick off the rebound. Josh Hogan fouled him going up for the the putback, setting up his two free throws.
In regulation, Clark set the tone, dropping a bomb after Jeremiah Jones penetrated and kicked it back to him.
Clark was just happy to find his game at the end. The Pirates then held Valparaiso with a field goal in the overtime, outscoring them 9-2.
"I was lackadaisical in the first half," he said. "I set the tone. I just didn't have enough energy."
The Vikings have some hope going into the Michigan City Sectional, where they could find themselves playing the Pirates again.
They finished just 20-of-51 from the field and just 7-of-27 from 3-point range. They missed lots of makeable shots.
After getting behind 18-3 in the first game against the Pirates and losing by 14, this was a much better showing.
The victory for Merrillville sets the Pirates up for undefeated record in the DAC if they beat Portage next Friday in East's last home game.