It’s pretty simple to figure out why Findlay Prep’s boys basketball team lost in the semifinals of the Dick’s High School Nationals Tournament on Friday.
Missed free throws.
The Pilots were 14-for-35 from the free-throw line, including two misses with 5.8 seconds that could have given them the lead, in a 54-52 loss to La Lumiere (Indiana) at Christ the King High in New York.
“We beat them statistically in every category except free throws,” Findlay Prep coach Paul Washington said. “Even at the end, we had a kid step up for two shots, this is our chance to win the game. So it comes down to fundamentals.”
La Lumiere (28-1) plays Montverde Academy (Florida) in the final at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The Lakers had missed only two free throws until the final minute when they missed the front end of three one-and-one opportunities to help the Pilots (34-4) rally.
Reggie Chaney’s putback with 43 seconds left cut the lead to 53-49, and he hit 1 of 2 free throws with 29.1 seconds to pull the Pilots within three.
After the third failed one-and-one, Findlay Prep’s Justin Roberts drove and kicked to P.J. Washington in the right corner. Washington knocked down a 3-pointer, but referees called a foul before the pass, sending Roberts to the line.
He made both shots to make it 53-52 with 19.1 seconds to go.
La Lumiere advanced the ball against the Pilots’ press, and Jordan Poole made an ill-advised cross-court pass that was intercepted by Findlay Prep. Tony Goodwin, who had just come into the game, was fouled with 5.8 seconds to play.
He missed both foul shots, and La Lumiere’s Grant Beucler made 1 of 2 foul shots with 4.3 seconds for the final margin.
Findlay Prep led 25-20 at the half, but the Lakers opened the third quarter with a 15-0 run and led by as many as 15 points in the second half.
“They did a good job of countering our defense,” Paul Washington said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to them. They’re one of the top teams in the country for a reason.”
P.J. Washington, the coach’s son, had 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots. But the Kentucky-bound forward looked like he was out of gas after playing in the McDonald’s All American game on Wednesday in Chicago before heading to New York for Thursday’s quarterfinals.
P.J. Washington was 5-for-13 from the field and 3-for-14 from the line. He was 2-for-10 from the field in the first three quarters.
“I can’t say the last time P.J. went 3-for-14 from the free-throw line,” Paul Washington said. “A lot of travel, playing in the McDonald’s game caught up to him. It’s hard to make free throws when you don’t have legs.”
Donnie Tillman and Chaney each grabbed 11 rebounds for the Pilots.
“I’m proud of them for having the fight,” Paul Washington said of his team. “They could have gone from down 15 to down 30.”
Brian Bowen had 19 points and seven rebounds to lead the Lakers.