OBSERVATIONS: It ‘ain’t’ easy making clutch free throws

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, reading Joe Lunardi’s book on Bracketology. I certainly didn’t learn much because I have two teams left in the Sweet Sixteen and everybody in the free world also has those two team. . .Gonzaga and Michigan.

—As I watch players toe the foul line with mere seconds left, the game to win or lose in his hands, it always brings back a memory.

It reminds of the pressure, the shaky hands, the wobbly knees. People, it ain’t easy.

As a junior guard at Akron East High School, I won the free throw shooting trophy as the best on that year’s team.

As a senior, we were tied with Akron South for first place in the City Series. We were tied, 50-50, with five seconds left.

South’s star player blasted toward the basket and ran me over, knocked me to the floor. In those days it was called charging and those days it resulted in free throws.

So I went to the line, game on the line. My arms felt like a pair of anvil irons and my knees were full of grape jelly.

I shot the first one. Way too hard. It crashed off the glass, hit the front of the rim. . .and fell through. We led, 51-50. Realizing my first heave was too hard, I eased up on the second shot. Air ball.

But the clock ran out and we won, 51-50. The fans flooded the court and carried me off, even though those were the two worst free throw attempts of my career.

As I said, people, it ain’t easy.

—As Marty Brennaman always liked to ask, “How we lookin’?” For the Cincinnati Reds so far this spring, no so good.

As of Monday, the Reds are last in the Cactus League at 6-and-14. They’ve given up 137 runs, most of any of the 30 major league teams. Their run differential is minus-34, by far the biggest game in the majors.

There are some good batting averages among the regulars: Nick Castellanos, .414; Jonathan India, .344; Nick Senzel, .344,; Eugenio Suarez, .310 (no homers).

And there are some not so good: Jesse Winker, .259; Tyler Stephenson, .231; Mike Moustakas, .194; Tucker Barnhart, .143.

The pitching? Other than Opening Day starter Luis Castillo’s 0.00 earned run average and Tejay Antone’s 1.17, it is plug ugly.

Brandon Finnegan, 4.26; Tyler Mahle, 7.94; Sal Romano, 8.53; Wade Miley, 8.32; Noe Ramirez, 9.00; Michael Lorenzen, 9.39; Sean Doolittle, 15.63.

And as all the optimists say, “It’s only spring training.”

—West Virginia’s Sean McNeil, a transfer from Dayton’s Sinclair College, hit seven three-pointers in an NCAA loss to Syracuse.

While McNeil was scoring nearly 40 points a game at Sinclair, he was heavily recruited by the University of Dayton. But he chose West Virginia.

The Flyers could have used him this season.

When Colorado stunned Georgetown, 98-73, in the NCAA McKinley Wright had 13 points, 15 assists and five rebounds. Wright, three-time first team all-Pac-12 and Colorado’s all-time assists leader, originally committed to Dayton. But he de-committed and sign with Colorado.

The Flyers could have used him this year.

From David Bauer, one of Nadine’s former students: “There is nothing wrong with UD’s recruiting. But maybe the need to find a 99-year-old nun to sit courtside.”

—Perhaps they should take the zero off Big 10 and make it Big 1. Nine Big Ten teams were selected for the NCAA tournament and eight didn’t make it past the second round.

Only Michigan survived and don’t be shocked if Michigan’s run hits a sink hole this week against Florida State.

Meanwhile, the much-maligned Pac-12 has four teams in the Sweet Sixteen — USC. UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State. And not one is seeded higher than a No. 6 (USC). And UCLA came out of the First Four.

—QUOTE: From ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale after George Mason, a No. 11 seed, made the Final Four in 2006: “It’s the greatest achievement I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of being a coach and a television personality. I really, absolutely have been blown away.” (So this year, in one week, Dickie V. was blown away by Oral Roberts, Chicago Loyola, North Texas, Abilene Christian and four PAC-12 teams. Wouldn’t you love to see his brackets?)

—Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyrone Lue was so disgusted with the first-quarter play of his starters than he yanked them out en masse.

The off-the-benchers outscored the Atlanta Hawks in the second period, 34-18. One of the substitutes was Franklin’s Luke Kennard.

Luke from Duke scored 20 points and hit all eight of shots, including a half-court heave to end the first period, The Clippers won, 119-110.

Hey, Coach Lue? Are you certain you are starting the right guys? That kid from Franklin can really play.

—QUOTE: From Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens: “You have a choice to make when you’re not playing. Either you’re invested and a great teammate, or you’re not” (Kennard’s investment would be a mammoth winner on Wall Street.)

—The Houston Rockets have lost 20 straight games. Can they have their beard back? Who knew that when James Harden left the Rockets would be like Samson after Delilah got done with him.

—If you didn’t watch the Wright State University women’s team Monday on ESPN, you missed a treat.

The 13th-seeded Raiders upended Arkansas, the No. 4 seed and the only team this year to beat UConn.

The special treat was the play of WSU’s whirling dervish, Angel Baker, put on a heavenly display — 26 points, 12 rebounds and four steals. She was 3-for-3 from three, including one from the corner with 30 seconds left to give WSU the lead for good.

What does it all mean. It probably means Wright State is going to lose coach Katrina Merriweather to a Power Five school. Such is life at the mid-major level.

—QUOTE: From NBA legend/icon Michael Jordan: “Some people want it to happen, some people wish it would happen, others make it happen.” (If you watched Wright State’s Angela Baker, she made it happen and happen and happen.”)

—As a math teacher, Nadine hates it when I say this, but it is true. . .another day in my life has passed at 80 and I still haven’t used algebra.

One thought on “OBSERVATIONS: It ‘ain’t’ easy making clutch free throws

  • March 23, 2021 at 2:29 pm
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    I take exception with your remarks on clutch free throws. When I was in high school or team shot 84 percent from the free throw line and won a number of games by hitting clutch free throws. The secret: At the end of each practice all players were required to shoot 5 free throws. If they didn’t make all 5, they had to shoot 50….not for punishment, but for practice. Our coach maintained that shooting and making free throws should be automatic since nobody was in your face. We won a state championship as the result of our ability to make free throws.

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