By BOB ETTINGER
The Jefferson Falcons hadn’t exactly been tearing it up from the free-throw line and had all but given away a 10-lead. It didn’t look promising for the Falcons heading into the final nine minutes of play.
Troy Bloom came to the rescue and Jefferson dropped All-American Conference rival Lakeview, 57-49, on Friday night at Falcon Gym.
Bloom was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws with 1:07 to play in the third period. Forty seconds later, he knocked down a triple and the Falcons (5-11, 3-5) held a 36-29 lead.
“Troy made some big shots,” Jefferson coach Jeremy Huber said. “That kept the lead and gave us confidence. We were breathing a little lighter as team.”
Lakeview was without three regulars, including starter Tommy Bell (team discipline) and the Falcons were without 6-foot-7 junior center David Chase (finger) and senior regular Tony Chiacchiero (knee).
Up until Bloom’s free throws, the Falcons were 8 of 16 on charity tosses as a group through the first 22:53. Over the final 9:07, they were 16 of 21 (76.2 percent), making nine in a row — five by senior point guard Jacob Hamilton — in building a 47-31 advantage with 3:55 left in the game.
“In games we’ve lost, we’ve struggled (from the line),” Bloom said. “We’d get down five or seven and free throws were big because we weren’t knocking them down. If we would’ve made more, the game
might’ve been different.
“It feels good (to be on the other side of that equation).”
Hamilton was 10 of 12 from the line in the fourth on his way 12 points.
“Give a lot of credit to Jacob,” Huber said. “He led the offense (5 assists) really well and played good defense. And he was good from the line.”
The Bulldogs (4-12 overall) struggled to score for much of the night.
“It was execution,” Lakeview coach Craig Mild said. “You can say all you want about tonight, but we missed layups. We did not execute and when we did, we missed layups.”
In falling behind, 17-7, through the first eight minutes, Lakeview made just 14.3 percent (1-7) of its shots. At the half, they had connected on just 4 of 21 (19.0 percent).
“We put ourselves in a hole,” Mild said. “There we re a lot of mental breakdowns on our part.”
Lakeview turned up the pressure on the Falcons for the better part of the second and third periods, erasing that 10-point deficit.
“We had good pressure,” Mild said. “That was the plan coming in — pressure, pressure, pressure.”
“Lakeview has a lot of pride,” Huber said. “They’re not going to quit.”
The Bulldogs, however, never could take the lead.
“We spent so much energy to get back,” Mild said. “We were short three kids, so we were depleted already.”
Bloom led the Falcons with 16 points and Jacob Adams added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Brandon Bensing paced the Bulldogs with 11 points and Jake Pishotti added 10.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.