Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Clutch Free Throw Shooting Propels Indians


More men have been slain by the charity stripes than by the chainsaws. Look at the history books.

 Nick Anderson put up a dud in the 1995 NBA finals, faltering under searing pressure with woeful free throw shooting. 

Anderson admitted several years ago that he still loses sleep over those botched freebies.

When the championship is on the line, when a trip to the ensuing round of the playoffs hangs in the balance, a seasoned senior reacts with cool and calming free throws.

 Two dribbles. Deep breath. Scan the rim. Launch. Money.

They are called “free” throws for a reason, dang it.

 Coaches don’t employ constant free throw drills, every practice like clockwork, simply to augment the workout. 

There is reason the punishment is running dreaded suicides if a player misses a free throw at the end of practice.

That’s the best way to simulate the rigors of shooting free throws during crucial late game moments, when the arms are tired and the crowd is in full throttle harassment mode.

Knock them back and close the deal, knock them back and put the game on ice.

 When the pressure skyrockets, burying free throws is the simplest way to settle that racket down. 

In No.5 Mahopac’s 60-53 Class AA first-round win over Suffern, the Indians survived every push Suffern made. Down the stretch, there were plenty of pushes. 

Suffern stuck contested shots and kept within a hunter's range, slicing away at a double-digit deficit. 

 The Indians’ defense was rugged in the first half, sealing off the driving lanes and altering and manipulating shots in the paint.

In a game of this magnitude, with the ramped up physicality and several hard fouls which may have induced a few black-and-blue marks, free throw shooting was immense. 

Suffern embodied the physicality of the 1994 basketBRAWL NY Knicks, with the refs allowing for some Anthony Mason and Chuck Oakley style nudges and bulldozes. 

The Indians seized a 39-22 lead after Glenn Janik pulled a straight-away 3-pointer and Ryan Simone barreled to the rim for a layup. 

The Mounties mounted a surge, however, capping a 16-6 romp when Kevin Jefferson knifed through traffic for a banker.

Suffern never stepped off the accelerator.

 In blink-quick fashion, a second half squad was salivating at the notion of firing off upset shots heard around the Section.

How did Mahopac respond?

The Indians displayed their clutch characteristics, sticking 16-of-17  free throws in the foul-littered fourth quarter.

Simone, who absorbed the brutal hits inside the key, navigated the pressure cooker by hitting 10-of-10.

 Since the summer, Simone has worked at a furious pace to incorporate a pack of post moves. He's evolved into a constant double-double threat, complete with a face-up game and a short-range jumper that can take big men away from the lane. 

It was a veteran, County Center-hardened team showing the poise needed to steer through late February and early March, when the upsets pile up and the over-hyped teams are suddenly exposed.

Simone had a game-best 23 points.

Martinez, who pocketed a deep 3-pointer that extended Mahopac’s lead to eight right before the first quarter buzzer, added 17. Martinez again played all 94 feet, hauling eight rebounds, dishing out five assists, and coming up with four steals. 

Janik, the operator of this offense, canned timely shots and staved off Suffern’s spirited rally with clutch free throw shooting.

Mahopac has a buzzed-about fight on its hands at Fox Lane at 6 p.m on Thursday. 

The bleachers are speck small, which indicates there will be bumper-to-bumper traffic for an absolute zoo featuring two of Section 1′s most loyal, loud and ebullient fan bases.

The Foxes have gotten better and better since Chris Violante seized the keys to the program.

The 17-2 Foxes feature a high-scoring, highly-decorated veteran in James Morales. As lethal as Morales can be when he’s on a buckets binge, he’s flanked by several seniors who can shoulder the scoring mantle.

Mahopac must get into the passing lanes and fracture the fluid ball movement.
Janik, as well as the other role players, will be crucial during this playoff run. 

All pre-season, word around the campfire had it Mahopac was limited beyond the dynamic inside-outside tandem Martinez and Simone.

Daniel Foley and Chris Esernio have each emerged as supplemental pieces capable of stretching out the floor and crashing the glass. 

Aiden Hynes has provided a consistent defensive presence, and the sophomore’s role has increased over the past few weeks. 

There is an old adage etched in the coaching handbook: “If you kill the head, the body will die.”

Everyone knows the offensive head, as well as the pulse of this team is Martinez and Simone. 

With any Kevin Downes-coached team, however, the swarming hands in unison can induce an ugly and irregular offensive performance.

The most crucial factor in any game will be the Indians’ draping, chest-to-chest defense. They cut their cheddar on stingy defense. On Sunday, it came down to pressure free throws.

 It was a sterling example of how paramount free throw shooting is to closing the deal. 

Big men, those who falter at the free throw line, please take note. 

 Even the iconic Wilt Chamberlain had his noted struggles from the foul line, shooting at a 51.1 percent clip for his storied career.

Free throws can be the vital X-factor in any game. The Indians shot a scalding 16-of-17 in the fourth quarter to slay Suffern’s comeback bid.

 They’ll need every ounce of that veteran savvy against Fox Lane.