MOUNDSVILLE — They’re called free throws for a reason, however, they were anything but free for the John Marshall boys Tuesday evening. As a team, the Monarchs shot 5 of 18 from the charity stripe, including 0 of 4 in the final 30 seconds, in a close 40-36 loss at home against Weir.
John Marshall (4-5) had two separate chances to tie and take the lead in the final 30 seconds of the game but neither Grant Neiswonger nor Brennan Sobutka could convert on any of their foul shots as the Red Riders (4-5) hung on for the win.
“It’s a good, hard-fought win,” said Weir coach Anthony Santangelo. “We’ve talked about heart for about three weeks now and those dudes found it (Tuesday), it was awesome.”
Weir Sophomore G. Cross scored his team’s final five points, all on foul shots, to preserve the victory.
“That kid has the biggest heart,” Santangelo said. “As a sophomore, that takes a lot.”
The issues at the line started early for the Monarchs, as they shot 0 of 3 in the first quarter and closed the game shooting 2 of 9 in the fourth.
In lieu of heading into the locker room following the final buzzer, JM coach Chad Clutter had his players remain on the court and practice free throw shooting as everyone else departed.
“That’s not us,” said Clutter, who estimated his team’s free throw percentage is usually in the mid-70s. “I think it was a mental thing, they just weren’t ready. This is the third of what I call 50-50 games, they just out-hustled us. From 50-50 balls to rebounds to put-backs, just all the little things that it takes to win a close game and we didn’t do any of those (Tuesday).”
John Marshall was limited to single-digit scoring in each of the first three quarters, but only trailed 21-17 going into halftime.
“We probably played a terrible half and we were still only down four so it was definitely in reach,” Clutter said.
After scoring just five points in the third quarter, the Monarchs finally started to come on strong in the fourth quarter, led by seven points from Neiswonger.
Weir only made three buckets in the final frame as JM’s full-court press started to give them issues and John Marshall opened the quarter on a 6-2 run.
“We had to get stops and we had to handle the ball out of that press,” Santangalo said. “We had to get shots, we were forcing way too much. We were all over the place so we had to calm down, relax and go win this game.”
JM got the lead down to one, 37-36, and looked to tie or pull ahead when Weir’s Trent Taflin fouled Neiswonger on a fastbreak, sending him to the line for two shots with 28 seconds left.
Neither fell as Cross made 1 of 2 foul shots of his own on the other end to push Weir’s lead to 38-36.
On the ensuing possession, Sobutka was fouled by Charlie Zagula and took his turn at the foul line with only six seconds left. He too missed both shots. Cross sank two last free throws in the final seconds as the Red Riders hung on to win by four points.
Neiswonger finished with 11 points, tied for the team lead with Roman Gray.
“He’s our best rebounder and our best guy inside,” Clutter said of Neiswonger. “We just didn’t flow around him today very well so he got frustrated and it showed with his free throws.”
Neiswonger finished 1 of 5 on free throws. Sobkuta finished with 10 points to round out JM’s top scorers but went 2 of 7 from the line.
Cross led Weir with 10 points, followed by 7 from Tyler Kelly and 6 from both Damarr Turner and Grant Wilharm.
Weir will hit the road to play at Madonna on Friday while John Marshall will take a trip north to play Brooke.
Weir 40, John Marshall 36
WEIR — G. Cross 2 5-6 10; Kelly 3 0-0 7; Turner 3 0-3 6; Wilharm 2 0-0 6; Maley 2 1-3 5; A. Cross 2 0-0 4; Zagula 1 0-0 2; Taflin 0 0-0 0; Jones 0 0-0 0.
JM — Neiswonger 5 1-5 11; Gray 5 0-0 11; Bre. Sobutka 4 2-7 10; Fitzpatrick 0 2-4 2; Stauffer 1 0-0 2; Bra. Sobutka 0 0-2 0; Hartman 0 0-0 0; Rogers 0 0-0 0.
3 Pt. Goals — Weir 4 (Wilharm 2, G. Cross 1, Kelly 1). John Marshall 1 (Gray).
Weir 14 7 7 12 — 40
JM 8 9 5 14 — 36