DECEMBER 14, 2013 - LEWISBURG
The free throw line is fifteen feet to the rim and it's the only spot of the floor where you can score without time running off the clock.
In one sense, the free throw is the easiest shot in basketball because shooters have a clear view at the basket without a defender in their face.
Yet, in another sense, it's one of the most difficult shots when the shooter can't find a rhythm, especially considering all eyes are on the person standing at the line either hoping they make it or praying they miss.
Yes, the free throw line is where the outcome of many basketball games are decided.
And unfortunately for the Covington Buccaneers, the free throw line was the difference in a 40-39 loss at Tri-County North on Friday as the Buccs made just 4 of 15, while the Panthers converted on 16 of 21.
"If we shoot fifty percent, we win," said Covington coach Matt Pond of the free throw shooting. "But hey, we could say the same thing about a missed layup here, a turnover there, you name it. There's so many things that happen in a game that you could say decided the outcome. It's basketball."
Shooting 4 of 15 from the free throw line is something many coaches would dwell on - and perhaps be upset about, but Matt Pond isn't one of them.
That's because he witnessed his team - a team with just one returning varsity player - play relentless for four quarters against a quality basketball team.
"Not to make excuses, but you have to remember we only have one player with varsity experience in the lineup (Andre Benedict)," Pond explained. "And these kids get after it. Defensively, we got after it pretty darn good."
And it was Covington's defense that made life difficult for Tri-County North, holding the Panthers to just 11 points in the first half on their home floor.
"To hold a team like that to eleven points in a half, that's playing some pretty good defense," Pond said. "Unfortunately, we had some breakdowns in the third quarter and the Hutchins kid got going."
The Hutchins kid Pond referred too was Panther senior Austin Hutchins, who led all players with a game-high 19 points and sparked Tri-County North to an 18-10 run for a 29-27 lead at the end of the third period.
The Panthers followed by building a seven-point lead in the final frame before Covington battled its way back down the stretch.
"Our kids don't quit," said Pond.
That "No Quit" attitude gave Covington a chance as it had the ball trailing 40-37 with 20 seconds left in the game.
The Buccaneers had a very good look from behind the arc with 6 seconds left, but the ball bounced out and into the hands of freshman Nathan Blei, who recorded the put-back while looking for the foul with 3 seconds left.
Unfortunately, and accurately, no fouled was called and Tri-County North let the clock run out without inbounding the ball.
"The kids fought until the end," said Pond. "This is process, a learning experience for us. Hopefully it pays dividends later in the year as we gain more experience."
The competitive drive is there and the relentless effort is there.
And if Covington continues to improve, the wins will follow.
SCORING BY QUARTERS:
Covington - 13 .. 17 .. 27 .. 39
TC North - 8 .. 11 .. 29 .. 40
Andre Benedict - 11
Tyler Henry - 11
Josh Earick - 5
Nathan Blei - 4
Robert Gengler - 4
Tyler Clark - 2
Ethan Meyer - 2
TC NORTH SCORING:
Austin Hutchins - 19
Derek Boothe - 7
Hunter Gleadell - 5
Ryan McAdams - 5
Armani Cunningham - 3
Garrett Woodyard - 1
Covington: Benedict (3)
TC North: Boothe, McAdams