The Eldon Mustangs fought two battles in Friday night's district title loss: one against a good Helias Catholic team, and another with their own misadventures at the free throw line. Eleven missed free throws after halftime left Eldon coach Jim Lincoln with little else to point at for his team's 39-31 season-ending loss in the Class 4, District 10 championship game.
The Eldon Mustangs fought two battles in Friday night's district title loss: one against a good Helias Catholic team, and another with their own misadventures at the free throw line.
Eleven missed free throws after halftime left Eldon coach Jim Lincoln with little else to point at for his team's 39-31 season-ending loss in the Class 4, District 10 championship game.
"We missed 11 free throws," Lincoln said. "I don't really need to say anything else."
Free throws were an issue, and so was Eldon's overall shooting late in the game.
The Mustangs went ice cold in the fourth quarter. They made no field goals, getting all four of their points at the free throw line.
Eldon shot 8-for-19 at the charity stripe in the second half. Helias, meanwhile, went 13-for-21 at the line in the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer by Eldon sophomore Sam Lincoln put the Mustangs ahead 26-24 late in the third quarter. That would be Eldon's last field goal of the game.
EHS senior Ryan Kliethermes made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Mustangs a 29-28 lead. The Crusaders then scored 10 of the game's next 11 points, all at the free throw line.
With each team struggling to make shots, the game seemingly took the form of a free throw contest.
Players drove hard to the basket looking to draw contact. Numerous fouls, both offensive and defensive, were called as players set screens.
Eldon was in the bonus well before Helias but couldn't add to its small second-half lead.
"We finally take the lead and I think what hurt us was, we were up by two and made one out of two free throws. We were up by one, and we made one out of two free throws," Lincoln said.
Helias scored the game's first seven points and led 17-8 in the second quarter. Eldon closed the half on a 7-2 run and carried momentum into the second half.
John Hall's second 3-pointer of the night tied the game at 21. Eldon went back to Hall on its next possession, this time isolating him in the post to take its first lead of the game.
Helias senior Deion Hughes led all players with 23 points. In the fourth quarter he had the game's only field goal and made 7 of 8 free throw attempts.
Lincoln said Hughes shot about 50 percent at the line in the regular season, which was why Eldon chose to foul him.
Lincoln also second-guessed a moment that would have given Eldon its biggest lead of the game.
"I made a mistake when we were up three in the third quarter, Ryan Kliethermes was in front of me at the 3-point line, I told him to pull a jumper," Lincoln said. "He had (Helias freshman center Hale) Hentges on him. I should've ran a set for him instead of having him shoot it. But if he knocks it down, we're up six.
"We would have held the ball the rest of the night."
Eldon trailed by three but had possession with over a minute to go in the game. As the Mustangs in-bounded the ball, point guard Blake Randall was called for an offensive foul as he tried to get open.
"Blake Randall, who's not in weightlifting and probably can't do 10 pushups, if he can push a kid that hard... I thought that was a turning point," Lincoln said. "But it wasn't the officials that made us lose. It was the missed free throws."
Hughes made four straight free throws to extend Helias' lead to 36-29.
Eldon, champions of the Tri-County Conference, finishes its season 21-6 overall. Helias Catholic will open the 16-team Class 4 tournament against St. Francis Borgia on Wednesday night at Washington High School.
Eldon 5 10 12 4 31
Helias 13 6 5 15 39
Eldon scoring — John Hall 12, Ryan Kliethermes 8, Sam Lincoln 7, Zac Shreve 3, Brad Dinwiddie 1
Helias scoring — Deion Hughes 23, Hale Hentges 8, Josh Smith 4, Aaron Vossen 3, Brad Schrimpf 1