WEST RUTLAND — Not much compares to the pressure of free throws late in a close basketball game.
All eyes are on one player as their team’s hopes depend on a single shot.
The Proctor boys basketball team struggled from the line when trying to put away West Rutland Thursday night, but came through when it needed to to pull out a 52-51 win.
At one point in the fourth quarter, the Phantoms were shooting just 25 percent from the charity stripe in the frame. That changed when Solomon Parker stepped up for a pair.
Parker, who had struggled with line violations earlier, calmly knocked his two shots down. On an ensuing possession, Conner McKearin was perfect on his two shots.
Nursing a one-point lead, Logan Starling put the game out of reach and knocked down two freebies with 2.6 seconds left.
“It’s huge for the kids’ confidence,” said Proctor coach Jake Eaton.
The Phantoms looked to be well in control heading into the fourth quarter.
Proctor led by nine at the time, but the Golden Horde quickly narrowed the deficit. The Phantoms started to miss shots from the line and West Rutland responded on the other end.
The Golden Horde showed grit on the boards and kept possessions alive for second chance baskets. Tyler Serrani scored seven points in the final quarter to keep West Rutland close.
“We let them back into it,” Eaton said. “One of the things we’ve been working on is composure and that’s making the right decisions. That game shouldn’t have been close. I give West Rutland credit for getting back into it.”
“The second half, we turned the defensive effort up more,” said Golden Horde coach Jordan Tolar. “We need to work on some game situations, but at least we took the lead back and got ourselves into position to win late down the stretch.”
Proctor jumped out to an early lead and caused a handful of West Rutland turnovers. The Phantoms led throughout the first, spurred on by McKearin’s five points, but Proctor settled a bit too much from deep and couldn’t open up the lead.
Proctor outscored the Golden Horde by three in the second quarter, taking a six-point lead into the half.
McKearin scored another seven points in the third to pace the Phantoms. West Rutland worked the ball into the post to Timothy Blanchard as he scored eight in the quarter.
West Rutland looked to use its size to its advantage with a guard-heavy Phantoms team opposing them.
“We have some good size and we wanted to exploit that against them because they have a lot of shooters. We had to find some advantage to use,” Tolar said.
West Rutland held the rebound advantage for the game.
Tolar was happy with the effort on the boards, but wants his team to take another step in that regard.
“There were times when we were watching. We have too much size and athletic ability not to dominate more,” Tolar said. “We’re going to keep working on that. Overall, I was proud of our effort on the boards. We did a good job of getting after it.”
The Golden Horde cut the Proctor lead to three points, but Joe Valerio and McKearin scored to answer back, as the Phantoms once again outscored Westside in the third.
The Golden Horde had a lead at one point late in the fourth, but couldn’t hold on.
Proctor improves to 2-1, while West Rutland drops to 0-2.