By ANGELO VELOTTA
For the Star Beacon
The Lordstown Red Devils used clutch free throw shooting to keep the Grand Valley Mustangs at by and claim an impressive road NAC win at GV on Friday night, 60-54.
The Mustangs made several runs at the Red Devils, cutting the deficit to 50-47 with 2:08 to play then 58-54 with 15.7 seconds but Lordstown’s even temper at the foul line allowed it to hold on.
After starting the game 2-4 from the line, Red Devil Jake Jones hit 10 freebies in a row to seal the victory.
Although he missed his final two attempts, it made little difference thanks to the 10-10 stretch.
“I mean it comes down to spending time in the gym,” Jones said of his free throw shooting.
“It keeps pressure on ‘em offensively, and releases pressure on (our) offense cause we (have) a 2 possession lead,” Lordstown head coach Brent Villella said.
“Jake Jones made free throws,” Grand Valley (2-9, 2-4) coach Luke Strohm simply put it.
GV had the early momentum to start with some big 3’s, but Lordstown answered right back. They also slowed down their offensive rotation, and after being down 14-13 in the last few minutes of the first quarter, came back and closed out on a 5-0 run to lead 18-14 after one quarter of play.
The second quarter saw the Mustangs again take the momentum to start and mainly kept it throughout the quarter, but never fully found their own rhythm only winning the quarter 9-7, giving Lordstown only a two-point lead at halftime 25-23 after a late score before the buzzer.
GV switched its defensive strategy throughout the third quarter, going to a very tight pressure instead of a looser zone. GV got their first lead after third, leading 38-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
“In third quarter we wanted to control things,” Strohm said. “Had some issues in first half keeping handle on ball, try to generate some turnovers, it started out that way but then we got turnovers.”
GV hit some huge shots in the fourth, but Lordstown found its breakout quarter in the fourth winning, 23-14.
“Guys executing to get right player the ball, making free throws under pressure,” Villella said. “They trusted the game plan, had confidence from them.
“Grand Valley is well coached, they have a rich tradition in basketball, they are going to have their moment. Our kids did a good job of trusting each other.”
“We slowed down everything, coach called a crucial timeout,” Jones said.
Jones finished with a team-high 21 points, 12 of which came from the free throw line, to go with 5 rebounds and 2 steals for Lordstown. Dustin Hajnosz added 13 and Preston Sutton scored 11, including three huge 3’s, and had 5 steals.
“Trying a little too hard (to force it) instead of going with the flow,” Strohm said.
“Lacking ball movement. When we did get ball inside (it worked).
“We showed heart and pride until final buzzer.”
Jake Vormelker led the way for GV with a game-high 22 points, including seven from the free throw line, and 9 rebounds, Stanley Sirrine scored 11, including two huge 3’s, and had 5 rebounds while Josh Kovats added 8.
Velotta is a freelance writer from Concord Township.