By T. Scott Boatright
Flash and glitz can make a basketball game fun.
But often it’s simple basics that can win a game.
And that’s the way seventh-seeded Chodurant hung on to defeat 10th-seeded Forien 71-60 in second-round action of the Class B boys basketball playoffs Monday night at the CHS Gym.
Those basics came in the form of fourth quarter free throws. Florien struggled at the charity stripe in the final eight minutes while Choudrant connected on 12-of-16 of its free throw attempts in the final stanza to secure the win.
Aggies senior Chris Williams was especially efficient at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, hitting on five of his six attempts.
“We are fortunate to have five guys that we want out there that can handle the ball and in pressure moments like that, hit free throws,” said Aggies coach Ryan Smith. “I thought Chris Williams did a wonderful job of hitting those free throws. Jackson Case went out and hit some big free throws as well. Even our big man, Amarion Simonton, hit some clutch late free throws. That was really big for him and for us as a group.”
Williams, who finished with a game-best 30 points, admitted for him, being at the line is more of a physical process than a mental one.
“I don’t even think at that point,” Williams said about shooting free throws in key situations. “I just take a breath, calm down and let it go.”
Choudrant built an early 12-2 advantage before the Blackcats got into gear, cutting the Aggies’ lead to 18-10 at the end of the first quarter.
The Aggies pushed that lead to 23-10 before Floriean heated up behind the hot-shooting of Ron Hongo, who connected on three straight 3-point shots in the second quarter to whittle Choudrant’s advantage down to seven points at 26-19 with 6:13 remaining before halftime.
Both teams’ offenses were hot throughout the second quarter, with Florien outscoring the Aggies 19-17 in the stanza. The Blackcats’ Gage Remedies scored the final five points of the period to cut Choudrant’s lead to 35-29 at the half.
“It’s a game of tradeoffs,” Smith said. “Florien has some great players and (Hongo) was somebody that we told ourselves, ‘We’ve got to see him really hit some shots.’ And to his credit, he did just that. I know he’s a senior and he obviously knew how big the game was. We knew Kaleb Carver was a really good player for them and we knew we just had to take our chances, so we did our best to limit him. (Remedies) had a strong game for them, too. So, if (Hongo) was going to beat us, he was going to beat us.”
Florien cut the Choudrant down to three points at 41-31 with 2:35 left in the third quarter, and the Aggies led only by six heading into the fourth quarter thanks to a pair of layups plus a free throw from Williams in the final 24 seconds of the third.
“We knew what we were getting into and that we’d be challenged,” Smith said. “We knew they were fast. We knew they were tough. We knew at some point they were going to come out and really put the pressure on us, so for the last week or so it’s been about poise and confidence, and I think that’s what really pulled it out for us — not panicking and not rushing. Our poise is the reason why I think we won.”
Simonton added 11 points for Choudrant, which also got 10 points from Lachlan Thompson, eight from Parker Batterton, and nine from Trey Harris, who went down hard on his back and spent time on the bench before returning in the fourth quarter.
“He’s such an important guy for us and to just be somebody with that much skill and ability to handle the ball and shoot — and his free-throw shooting ended up playing a factor, we were fortunate that he shook it off,” Smith said of Harris. “Our doctor checked him out and cleared him to play, and he went back in and made some great plays at the end.”
Choudrant will next take on the winner of a second-round showdown between No. 2 Anacoco and No. 18 Negreet in a game slated to be played on Friday.
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