Each day before practice ends, Istrouma High’s Tevin Walker knows he has to make a certain number of free throws before going home.
That practice allowed Walker to help the Indians take home a key District 6-4A victory. Walker made six free throws in the final 21 seconds to help Istrouma lock up a 60-52 victory over Tara High in a game played Tuesday at Tara.
“It was just like practice,” Walker said. “I knew I had to make them for my team.”
Marquise Kaigler scored a game-high 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the Indians (21-6, 11-0), who remain unbeaten in 6-4A. Walker added 15 and also picked up the slack as a ballhandler when point guard Devin Bethely was ejected in the third quarter.
“This was a big win for us,” Istrouma coach Aaron Pearson said. “There were times, especially in the fourth quarter, where we let the guys figure things out on the court. Tara came at us, but they figured out what to do and executed.”
Joshua Plain led Tara (21-8, 8-2) with 15 points. Shaquille Reed added 14 for the Trojans, who rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit but never could tie it.
“We had chances,” Tara coach Larry Grantham said. “They’re so big and athletic, and they rebounded the ball well. We had turnovers when we had a couple of chances to tie it up.”
Tara had the hot hand early and scored the first six points, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Tyrian Davis. The Trojans led 8-1 before Istrouma started its rally.
Bethely scored seven first-quarter points, including a 3-pointer from the left wing with 34 seconds to go that tied it at 12.
The teams traded baskets one last time before the opening quarter ended. Once the second period began, the Indians turned the tables on Tara.
Kaigler carried much of the offensive load, scoring seven second-quarter points. Istrouma forced four turnovers and held Tara without a point until Reed hit a free throw at the 5:31 mark.
By the time Reed got the Trojans on the board Istrouma had extended its lead to five points, at 19-14. The Indians led by seven, at 22-15, after Bethely scored on a fastbreak layup at the 3:20 mark.
That’s when Tara seized the momentum. The Trojans scored eight of the final 11 points in the half. A layup by Plain pulled Tara within one point, at 24-23, with 19 seconds left.
Kaigler’s rebounded a miss and scored right before the buzzer to give Istrouma a 26-23 halftime lead.
Walker put a charge into the Istrouma offense to start the second half, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, one from the wing and the other from the top of the key. Suddenly, Istrouma led 32-23.
But things weren’t all rosy for the Indians. Bethely was ejected after picking up two technical fouls. One was assessed for throwing an elbow, and the second came after the players started jawing with each other. A spectator also was ejected.
That didn’t keep Istrouma from extending its lead. A 3-pointer by Decorey London upped the Indians’ lead to 13, at 39-26, with 3:02 left. Tara responded by scoring nine of the final 11 points in the quarter.
The Trojans scored twice in the final 10 seconds. Reed hit a jumper in the lane and was fouled. After Reed made the free throw, Istrouma turned the ball over. Derrick Mitchell’s follow shot at the at the buzzer made it a 41-35.
Plain’s 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter got Tara within three, at 41-38. A minute later, Plain was fouled shooting 3-pointer and made all three shots to pull the Trojans within two, at 45-43.
Tara got within two points three more times. Reed cut the gap to 54-52 with a drive down the lane with 34 seconds left. The Trojans were forced to foul. The first time Walker was fouled, it was an intentional foul.
Walker wound up making four of his six free throws within a second of each other, extending the Istrouma lead to six, at 58-52, and added two more 14 seconds later.
“It was tough,” Reed said. “But I think it will help us in the playoffs.”