AURORA – It took all of three seconds Saturday for an Oswego East player to get to the free-throw line against Batavia in the Ernie Kivisto Hoopfest at East Aurora High School.
Kendall Dorsey promptly made both free throws, which proved to be a harbinger of how the evening would go. The Wolves (9-10) wound up going to the line 27 times and converting on 25 of those opportunities in a 58-53 victory.
In contrast, Batavia only had 12 free throw opportunities in the game, making nine, including six by Micah Coffey, who finished with 16 points.
When they weren’t sending Oswego East players to the line, the Bulldogs (9-10) actually did a good job defensively, limiting the Wolves to 28 percent shooting field from the field.
“I thought we were defending pretty good in the half-court set,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “[But] we were kind of playing the game to be perfect there with the amount of extra possessions we were giving them. It’s a tough way to try to win a game.”
Nazos was referring to the 24 turnovers the Bulldogs gave Oswego East, as well as the 16 offensive rebounds the Wolves nabbed.
In the first half, Batavia held Oswego East to 16 percent shooting from the field, but still trailed 22-20 at the break, when Nazos discussed the turnover and rebounding problems with his team, as evidenced by a pair of numbers that remained accusingly on a whiteboard after the game for the Bulldogs to ponder.
“Those numbers up there – 10 turnovers, 11 offensive rebounds – that’s not going to win a game,” Batavia senior guard Mike Rueffer said. “Twenty-four turnovers in the whole game is not going to win you many games.”
Despite those negative numbers, Batavia still had an opportunity to pull out a victory down the stretch. A basket by senior Jake Pollack gave the Bulldogs a 53-51 lead with 1:33 left in the game. Then, after C.J. Vaughn made a couple of free throws to tie the game, Rueffer (11 points) had a pair of close-range opportunities to put Batavia back in front, but didn’t get the roll on his initial drive and couldn’t get his own put-back attempt to fall.
“I had two chances at it,” Rueffer said ruefully. “I just couldn’t get the first one, got my rebound and felt some pressure, so I reversed it, but I didn’t use the backboard. That probably wasn’t very smart.”
Kendall Dorsey (19 points) hit a short jumper a few seconds later and a reverse layup following a Batavia turnover to put the Wolves up 57-53 with 20 seconds left. C.J. Vaughn (16 points) added a free throw with nine seconds remaining to account for the final score. Vaughn made his first 11 free throws before misfiring on his last attempt.
“Vaughn’s a heck of a player,” Rueffer said.” We held him to two field goals, I think, so that definitely helped.”
Vaughn was just 2-for-14 from the field, but unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they couldn’t guard him or any of the other Oswego East players at the free throw line.
“Give them credit,” Nazos said. “They did what they had to do to keep the game within reach and take it there at the end.”
The Bulldogs return to Upstate Eight Conference River action Friday at St. Charles North.