By Chuck Pleiness
Free-throw shooting plays an important role in winning basketball games.It’s even more significant the further you head in the state tournament.
Luckily for New Haven, a poor night at the charity stripe didn’t cost the Rockets their season.
New Haven missed 18-of-34 attempts in a 73-66 win over Detroit Osborn in a Class B state quarterfinal on Tuesday at Marysville High School.
“We’re a good free-throw shooting team,” Rockets coach Tedaro France II said. “That game it just didn’t go our way. Some of our best guys missed so many free throws. That’s uncharacteristic of what we do.
“But we didn’t get down,” France added. “We didn’t panic. I know that can’t get any worse.”
New Haven had shot 74 percent from the line entering the game Tuesday.
“We just had a bad free-throw shooting night,” Romeo Weems said. “It happens. We just couldn’t hit free throws. We work on that every day in practice.
“It could have cost us, but it didn’t,” Weems added. “We shot our shot, but it just wasn’t going in.”
Eric Williams Jr. was doing his best to help Weems work through it during the game.
“E tried to help me, telling me to follow through and keep my shot up, get it higher,” Weems said. “We kept doing that. They just weren’t dropping.”
“It’s mental,” France said. “If you miss one, miss two, miss three, then it starts to affect your play. We might have bad night shooting the ball, we might turn the ball over some, but we should never have a bad night defensively.”
“We were blessed to pull the victory out," Williams said.
Free-throw shooting is something that France doesn’t take lightly in practice.
“Some coaches shoot free throws at the end of practice, but we start practice off stretching, do a drill and shoot free throws,” France said. “We do more fast paced drills, stop and shoot free throws. We’ll do that five or six times during a practice. We take out time to incorporate it into a practice. That’s such a huge part of the game.”
The Rockets go to the line for at least 15 minutes each practice.
“You can start to lose confidence, but I don’t think it gets to us,” Williams said. “Practicing them as much as we do helps.”
New Haven meets Benton Harbor in a Class B state semifinal Friday at 6 p.m. at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University
“We’ve shot a lot, but shooting them in our own gym still isn’t the same as shooting them on the road,” France said. “We just have to focus and make plays.”
New Haven, which had lost in back-to-back state quarterfinal appearances prior to advancing past that point this season, was not a good free-throw shooting team a year ago.
“I wasn’t too good at free throws last year,” Weems said. “I feel I’ve got way better. Last year I didn’t like shooting free throws. I feel a lot more comfortable at the free-throw line so now I become more aggressive to get there.”
Benton Harbor made a number of clutch free throws to top Spring Lake, 46-44, to reach the semis.
“I can be mental,” Williams said. “You miss a few, even though it didn’t kill us, it could have. There are times in a game when you can’t hit a free throw. You just have to keep focused and try and stay confident.”