The Pierce Bluejays got a free (throw) shot against C1-8 Sub-District #2 seed Boone Central, and took full advantage.
Pierce sank 25 of a whopping 34 free throw attempts in the first round C1-8 contest at O’Neill Tuesday, Feb. 22 – a staggering 24 attempts in the fourth quarter alone.
Boone actually made 100 percent of its foul shots, but were awarded only eight the entire contest.
When another heated battle between the longtime Mid-State Conference rivals ended, Pierce’s dominance at the line and Boone Central’s frigid field goal shooting equaled a 55-43 upset for the Bluejays and ended Boone Central’s 2021-22 season with a 16-8 record.
Mid-State fans know feathers will likely fly when the Cardinals and Bluejays meet on the basketball court. Games between the two squads annually feature physical, combative defense; low, hard-earned point totals, and more than a few upsets through the years.
While this game didn’t run entirely to script, it certainly fell in the upset category. Boone Central defeated Pierce 54-46 earlier in the season, was riding a streak of 10 wins in 11 games, and had posted a 12-3 record since Dec. 21. The Jays, meanwhile entered the postseason with an 11-11 record after back-to-back losses in the recent conference tournament.
A Pierce victory certainly didn’t appear imminent after Boone bolted to a 17-3 lead Tuesday.
Then again, fans didn’t expect the game to end with a free throw discrepency of 26.
“It was definitely not how we thought the season would end, since we went into subs having beaten all the other teams in the regular season,” said Boone Central Coach Justin Harris. “We struggled to score after the first quarter, as we finished the final three quarters shooting 10-of-39 and only shot two free throws.
“We did shoot 30 times in the paint out of 52 attempts, while Pierce had 11 shots in the paint.”
That hard work inside simply did not create enough points, or free throw attempts, however.
Pierce made one crucial change after falling in the early 14-point hole, switching from Coach Mike Emory’s favored in-your-jersey man-to-man defense to a zone.
“We had to put together a different defense if we couldn’t guard them man-to-man,” Emory acknowledged.
Boone Central, after executing almost flawlessly during its 19-point first quarter, could not generate the same player and ball movement against the Bluejay zone, or hit enough of the open looks they did find.
After that first quarter point total, the Cardinals scored just 24 more in the final three periods combined.
Pierce chiseled the early deficit to 26-24 by intermission and 32-31 through three quarters, then outscored Boone 24-11 in the final stanza by sinking 19-of-24 foul shots. The Cardinals, meanwhile, went 2-for-2 at the line in the final eight minutes, to the confusion of Harris.
“I felt we played defense about the same as we have all year,” Harris told media following the contest. “We are aggressive, I understand that, and we’re probably going to foul more than the other team. Pierce is usually aggressive defensively as a team too, but they played more zone tonight.”
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