MICHIGAN CITY — After a tongue-in-cheek reference about his team improving its ‘get to the free throw line offense’ following last Friday’s free throw disparity at Gary West Side, Tom Wells had to be pleased with the results Tuesday against Andrean.
The Wolves (3-1), who were awarded just two freebies versus the Cougars, hit 11 of 14 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to turn back the short-handed 59ers 64-56 at the Wolves Den.
"I thought our get fouled offense was pretty good," Wells said. "We threw it inside quite a bit. Now all of a sudden, we're playing inside-out. You don't have to score, but you've got to throw it in there."
Up 30-23 at the break, MC saw its margin whittled to a basket by the end of the third as the Class 2A No. 10 Niners had three players hit 3-pointers. City responded with an eight-point run to start the final period with six of those coming at the charity stripe, and withstood Andrean pushes that saw the visitors get within four on three occasions.
Caron McKinney and Evan Bush went a combined 8-for-10 at the foul line in the final period. Bush was big on the glass, snaring 13 rebounds, while McKinney's seven points were all on free throws.
"I really think that team is good even without Kyle (Ross)," Wells said of the 6-foot-7 junior and Andrean's leading scorer from last year's Class 2A state championship. "They have a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Our perimeter is going to hold its own against most. Some post players have typically given us problems, so I was really worried about their post players. I was very happy with the way they bounced back. I thought our response overall was really good."
Guards Jamie Hodges, Jr., and Omarion Hatch combined for 13 fourth-quarter points for the Wolves and wound up leading City in scoring with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
"Once we started to get a little spread out, then they go, and those kids are quick," Andrean coach Brad Stangel said. "They finish at the basket."
Hatch was also a defensive catalyst with three steals, while checking Nick Flesher, the 59ers' main perimeter threat. Tahari Watson contributed 10 points and DezMand Hawkins nine, the pair making five of MC’s six treys between them.
"Josh Fleming was the best at getting in the passing lanes," Wells said of the guard who played for him at La Porte. "These two young kids remind me of a very young Josh. If that's the case, I feel pretty good about it. Omarion did a great job on Nicky. That's a good player. We tried to zone press them in the first half with some success, but then any time you zone, there's a little conversion before you get into your man to man and the back end of the press, we're giving some pretty high percentage looks, so we just went straight man to man. It was just a lot better for us."
City made 18 of 23 free throws overall, while the Niners were 12 of 22.
Ben Jones (16), Deshon Burnett (15), Flesher (14) and Gabe Gillespie (10) all reached double figures for Andrean (1-3), which has also lost to Duneland Athletic Conference schools Lake Central and Chesterton. Ross, a Division I recruit, is out and not with the team for undisclosed reasons not related to an injury.
"We need to be a little better at throwing the ball inside and when we did, we were successful," Stangel said. "When we were able to get in the right spots, they didn't make many shots. I thought we scored the ball better when we moved the ball and handled the pressure. We're not making any excuses, but we've had two full practices with everybody between football and the other stuff. If this is our finished product, we're not going to be very good, but I liked what we showed. I like where we can get to. We can work with this."
Michigan City 64, Andrean 56
Freshman Jamie Hodges, Jr., led the Wolves with 16 points.