Free throws sunk Cary-Grove on Saturday.
Three days later, they were a life preserver for the Trojans, who spent the better part of their most recent practice becoming one with the free throw line.
"We practiced free throws a lot in practice (on Monday)," Cary-Grove senior center Dean Lee. "It obviously showed tonight."
The Trojans knocked down 21 of 24 free throws against host Grayslake Central on Tuesday and needed just about every last one of them en route to a 61-59 Fox Valley Conference crossover victory.
The efficiency at the line was extra sweet given that Cary-Grove made only 9 of 20 free throws in a 7-point loss to Jacobs on Saturday.
"It's good for us to bounce back with our free throws like we did tonight," said Lee, who scored a game-high 22 points. "Our percentage is finally where we want it."
Lee did his part to bring up the curve. He connected on all 9 of his free throw attempts, including five in fourth quarter as Cary-Grove was forced to answer multiple Grayslake Central runs in the final minutes.
Sophomore guard Jason Gregoire also came up clutch for the Trojans, hitting four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds to help maintain a slight lead.
"We felt like we could have won that game against Jacobs the other night, so a game like this one, on the road, kind of evens that one out," Cary-Grove coach Ralph Schuetzle said. "We hit clutch free throws tonight. We're getting better."
Cary-Grove, which improves to 6-2 on the season, had a relatively comfortable 8-point lead for much of the fourth quarter. But Grayslake Central was thrown its own lifeline when senior guard Danny Reed caught on fire.
He drained a 3-pointer with 52.4 seconds remaining to cut Grayslake Central's deficit to just 3 points, 57-54. Then, after Gregoire hit a couple of free throws to put Cary-Grove back up by 5 points, Reed hit a driving layup with 12. 7 seconds left to again cut the deficit to 3 points, 59-56.
But the Rams, who fall to 1-6 overall, had no choice but to foul to get the ball back, and again Gregoire hit a pair of free throws. The final margin would have been five points had Grayslake Central sophomore guard Joey Mudd not hit a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"It took a team effort to get back into the game," said Reed, who paced Grayslake Central with 17 points. "I was excited when those shots started going in at the end. I thought we were going to make a run at them. But they made their free throws and that kept them in front."
The Rams also got double-figures out of senior forward Jack Spicer. He finished with 11 points. Meanwhile, Cary-Grove's other double-figure scorer was senior guard Matt Motzel with 13 points.
"We got back into it, but it was too little, too late," Grayslake Central coach Brian Moe said. "It was good to see Danny take those shots for us. He's battled all year and as our one returning kid, he's run with it and been a great leader in practice and steps up in games and takes the big shots."