St. Francis only made 3 baskets in the entire second half Friday night.
Instead, the Spartans (4-0) did most of their damage at the free-throw line, where they drained 27 second-half foul shots and fought off a late charge by Marmion during a 60-51 Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division basketball victory over the Cadets (1-5) in Aurora.
Led by Colin Kavanaugh (13 points, 3 steals), Matt Smith (11 points, 7 rebounds), and Mike Sheehan (11 points), Marmion trimmed what was a 19-point halftime deficit to 5 on three separate occasions in the fourth quarter thanks in part to full-court defensive pressure.
But every time the Cadets threatened, the Spartans had an answer -- one that usually came from the free-throw line.
Matt Bonner and Zach Prociuk scored all 10 of their points at the foul line in the fourth quarter, as the Spartans were 14-for-18 during the final 8 minutes.
"We shoot free throws every day in practice so we were ready and we knocked them down," said senior guard Andrew Kimball, who led the Spartans with 19 points, including all 6 of his foul shots. "It was one of the big reasons why we won."
"We hit free throws," said Spartans coach Bob Ward, whose team finished 29-of-36 at the foul line. "So even though they were making this huge comeback, if at that same time you're hitting free throws -- that kind of negates the comeback. We were able to do that."
St. Francis also received a boost off of its bench from sophomore guard Jason Sullivan (10 points), who filled in admirably after the team lost the services of senior guard Tim Zettinger (8 points) to a sprained ankle midway through the second quarter.
"We had a sophomore that came in and did a heck of a good job for Zettinger," Ward said of Sullivan. "He really got a baptism tonight."
While the teams combined for 49 fouls, 51 made free throws and 69 free-throw attempts, St. Francis poured in 5 three-pointers to build a 27-8 halftime bulge.
"I don't know if they were necessarily ready for our pressure," Ward said of his team's first half. "One of our goals is (holding teams to) single-digit quarters and there we had a single-digit half. But we sure didn't have single-digit quarters in the second half."
Kimball actually had more points (9) than the entire Marmion squad (8) at the intermission.
"Early on in the season, we've been having a hard time scoring the basketball," said Cadets coach Ryan Paradise. "One, we missed some layups and we missed a lot of free throws (2-of-6). Their ball pressure really got us out of most of our sets."
The Cadets' 43-point second half helped make things interesting, though.
"Our guys just laid it all on the line," said Paradise. "You're not going to win too many varsity high school basketball games when you score eight points in the first half.
"We climbed back but the problem was that we got overly aggressive with our press and started fouling early in the third quarter," added Paradise. "With three minutes left in the third quarter, they were in the bonus."
As a result, the teams combined for 60 second-half free-throw attempts.
"It was crazy like that," said Paradise. "I think we kind of cluttered the game up in the second half. But we've got to be more consistent and find out how we're going to play for four quarters."
"We knew they'd come back -- that was the gist of our halftime talk," said Ward. "But when we had to get stops late, we were able to do that."