Free-throw shooting ended up being the reason why Mount Paran Christian prevailed, 50-40, over defending Class A state champion Whitefield Academy in a Region 6A (B) game Friday night.
The Eagles (12-1, 4-1) were 19-for-23 on the line in the second half and worked a streak of 13 consecutive makes that began late in the first half.
The Wolfpack (6-6, 2-3) struggled with fouls the entire game, often putting Mount Paran on the foul line, where it was 28-of-36 for the game.
The Eagles used their free throws to bail themselves out of a five-point first-half deficit, and they used them to break the game wide open in the fourth.
“I give credit to all those guys who were on the floor,” Mount Paran coach Scott Varner said. “We got the ball into the right hands, they got on the line and they knocked down their free throws.
Three players ended up in double figures for Mount Paran, with Blake Jones leading the way at 15 points. Jordan VerSteeg had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Brandon Barnes finished with 10 points.
The Eagles won despite turning the ball over 22 times. Thirteen of those turnovers came in the first half.
“I don’t want to say you can get away with that many turnovers in the first half,” Varner said, “but we did (Friday).”
Poor shooting, combined with Mount Paran’s aggressive man-to-man defense, prevented Whitefield from taking advantage of the turnovers it created. The Wolfpack shot 26.2 percent from the field and were 0-for-13 from beyond the arc in the second half.
Whitefield’s forced turnovers in the first half helped it build a 19-14 lead half way through the second quarter, and it appeared to be building momentum. Then, Mount Paran’s streak of 13 straight made free throws began.
It all started when VerSteeg hit the second of his pair of free throws. Barnes and Tom Crone each added two free throws to knot the score at 19-all at the half.
The streak carried on through the third quarter, and when Will Crone hit Mount Paran’s 12th and 13th straight free throws midway through the fourth, the Eagles were only ahead by three points at 35-32. Emoni Williams had a chance to extend the lead on the foul line but came up short.
However, a short time later, Mount Paran got hot on the line once again. After Jones hit a jump shot to increase Mount Paran’s lead to 37-32, Jones and Andrew Rogers each made both of their free throws and VerSteeg delivered a three-point play to give the Eagles their first double-digit lead with roughly 2 minutes left.
Whitefield was forced to foul at that point and Mount Paran made six of its next eight foul shots to hold on.
Eric Lockett led Whitefield with 20 points and was its lone double-figure scorer on the team. He completed a double-double with 10 rebounds.
Mount Paran 56 Christian, Whitefield Academy 14: Brianna Brown scored 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Lady Eagles in a one-sided affair.
Mount Paran jumped on Whitefield early and built a 31-point lead going into the fourth quarter to force the 6-minute clock.
Renee Van Horn chipped in with 10 points and six assists for Mount Paran and Alana Moss added three steals.