A familiar nemesis haunted St. Genevieve High on Thursday night against Bell-Jeff, forcing Coach Dave Hoffman into a few long, hard stares at the floor beneath his feet.
Earlier this season, the Valiants hit only 5 of 20 free throws in a one-point loss. At the packed Bell-Jeff gym, Hoffman didn't seem to notice the noisy fans, just the free throws. Especially the ones that circled the rim and dropped out.
Only 7 of 17 free throws went though the hoop for St. Genevieve.
Most of the misses were the front end of one-and-one situations, and Bell-Jeff defeated the Valiants, 61-50, in a Santa Fe League game.
The Guards (6-4, 2-0 in league play), meanwhile, connected on 21 of 31 free throws.
"Tonight, they just seemed to go in and out," said Mike Walker, who scored a game-high 20 points for St. Genevieve and seemed much less distraught about the dismal free-throw shooting than Hoffman.
Said Hoffman: "We tried everything in practice, everything. Maybe we should try nothing."
The game was much closer than the final score made it seem.
There were eight lead changes and ties in the first two periods and the Guards only led, 29-27, at halftime.
St. Genevieve (4-6, 0-2) scored the first four points of the second half to lead, 31-30, but Bell-Jeff went on a 10-2 run for a 43-38 lead after three quarters.
The Valiants never came closer than five points in the final quarter.
Nick Sanderson, Bell-Jeff's leading scorer with a 19.8 average, made three jumpers during the Guards' third-quarter surge. He finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
Chris Dyer added 15 points.
Hounded by Valiant guard Ruben Aguirre, Sanderson was held scoreless in the first quarter and had but six points in the first half.
That all changed in the third quarter.
"Ruben was all over his shirt in the first half," Hoffman said. "But Nick is a hard man to guard because he's so athletic and can shoot."
Sanderson made only 3 of his first 9 shots but turned it around by making 3 of his final 5. As a team, Bell-Jeff made 19 of 38 field-goal attempts. St. Genevieve made only 20 of 59 attempts.
In addition, Henry Polee scored 10 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and blocked 3 shots for Bell-Jeff.