By: Kevin Lozon, Macomb Daily
Anchor Bay basketball players found out why they shoot free throws at practice on Tuesday night.
The Tars made 6-of-8 free throws in overtime, while Port Huron Northern converted on 1-of-5 attempts, and it proved to be the difference in Anchor Bay's 55-53 MAC crossover win over the visiting Huskies.
"We didn't make a ton of plays at the end, but we made enough to get to the line," Anchor Bay coach Jim Barnes said. "That was the difference."
Anchor Bay trailed 45-37 with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter, but outscored PHN 12-4 down the stretch, tying the game on a 3-pointer by Riley Vermander off a nice pass from Jaylon Smelser with two seconds left, sending the game into OT.
"Vermander was huge," Barnes said. "He's a good player and like all our guys, he's an incredible kid to coach. That play was set up for him. We thought we might get some misdirection on a ball screen and Jaylon made the perfect play on it. He's our best playmaker."
PHN coach Brian Jamison said his team made a key defensive mistake on the crucial triple by Vermander.
"We just did a poor job on a ball screen," Jamison said. "We were supposed to switch on it and didn't, and Vermander hit the shot. We have to do a better job defensively."
Vermander, Smelser and Blake Busuttil each made two free throws in the extra period.
"We tried to be in the game at the 3:00 mark of the fourth quarter," Barnes said. "We got there down four and had some momentum, getting the ball inside a little more. I really think that's the way we should play from a pace standpoint. We got stops in the last eight minutes, and offensively we figured it out a little bit and chipped away."
Anchor Bay held a 28-24 halftime lead behind eight points each by Vermander and Blake Busuttil, but PHN rallied in the third quarter, outscoring the Tars 14-5 in the period, gaining a 38-33 edge heading into the final stanza. Braiden McGregor had six points in the frame for the Huskies, while James DeLong added five points.
"We struggled in the first half on some of our switches," Jamison said. "The second half we did a much better job. Unfortunately, Anchor Bay made some big shots down the stretch.
"We have some options offensively," Jamison added. "We have to do a better job in other areas. We have some weapons, but we have to take care of the ball better and make good decisions down the stretch."
Vermander led the Tars with 20 points, while Busuttil added 13 points, and Jake Decaussin finished with six points. The win improved Anchor Bay's record to 3-1 overall.
PHN, which fell to 2-2 overall, was led by DeLong and Carter Stoner with 15 points each, while McGregor chipped in nine points. The Huskies drained 11 triples in the game, with Stoner knocking down five, and DeLong draining three. McGregor had three thunderous dunks.
"It was pick your poison for us on defense," Barnes said. "We knew that going in. All things considered, we did a good job on Braiden McGregor. (PHN) shot the heck out of it in the first half and into the third quarter."