With 34 seconds remaining and holding a 52-51 lead, Morristown’s Quinton Batton stepped to the line for two vital free throws. The junior hadn’t been at the line all night, but he rose to the occasion and made both.
And after Batesville’s Sam Voegele missed a 3-pointer with 25 seconds, it was Kyle Crim’s turn. Crim stepped to the line and made a pair with 16 seconds, giving the Yellow Jackets a 56-51 lead.
Batesville’s Thomas Raver missed a three and Batton grabbed the rebound with seven seconds. He was immediately fouled and again sank both attempts.
The Yellow Jackets (17-4) won 58-51 with those key trips to the line, extending their win streak to seven.
“Free throws were huge,” coach Scott McClelland said “(The) kids all stepped up, made huge free throws. (We) had different guys. Quinton had four really big ones, Kyle had a couple big ones, Drake (Moore) had a couple big ones (earlier in the fourth quarter). Free throw shooting was really good.”
Morristown led 44-35 entering the final quarter and looked like it had an opportunity to pull away for good.
But the Bulldogs had other ideas. With senior Drake Moore on the bench with four fouls, Batesville went on an 8-0 run to start the quarter.
McClelland later said Batesville’s record (6-14) was deceiving because the team had been battling injuries and dealing with COVID-19-related issues earlier in the season.
With Moore on the bench, Crim tried to get other teammates involved.
By halftime, he and Moore had combined for 32 of the team’s 34 points on 13-for-18 shooting.
With Moore out, Crim looked to get other teammates involved.
The result was eight points contributed by Batton, six by senior Sawyer Jones and two of junior Nick Stidham’s four in the second half.
“We’ve talked about, to relieve some pressure. Nick’s got to give us four or six. Quinton really stepped up and got a couple nice basket,” McClelland said. “It’s not really so much when (Crim) shoots, as much as when he looks to shoot. Kyle made some nice heads up plays there.”
The Yellow Jackets practiced once during the week, causing some concern for the coach.
“I thought our guys showed some real toughness and grit there at the end,” he said.
He later said the team faced various challenges throughout the game.
“Presses, changing defenses, we had to come from behind,” he said. “We didn’t panic. We had to hit free throws. We had to come up with stops when we needed them. (We) had different guys step up and score, so I’m really encouraged by this win. (I) thought our guys showed some real toughness.”
Moore scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, while Crim scored 14 of his 19 in that half as well.
The Yellow Jackets had a good night at the line, shooting 15-for-17.