Chaparro, St. Francis get it done at free-throw line
Wipe away the eight free throws that sophomore guard Katelin Chaparro drained and St. Francis' 40-32 victory over St. Laurence on Thursday evening suddenly becomes much more of a nail-biter.
Take it a step further and erase or even cut in half the 23 points they scored from the free-throw line and the Spartans would have been in some real trouble. But with Chaparro leading the way, the Spartans (8-19, 2-7 GCAC White) were both aggressive enough to earn frequent trips to the line and poised enough to make the most of the opportunities when they did get there.
Because in this one, knocking down free throws loomed large at the end of 32 minutes of play.
"I'm a believer that free throws win games," St. Francis coach Sandy DeCraene said after the game. "Our goal is to be a 60 or 70 percent free-throw shooting percentage team. Would I like to have it higher? Absolutely. We've been putting in a lot of time with the free-throw shooting at practice."
"It's kind of been manifesting this entire season," Chaparro, who made 8 of 12 from the free-throw line, said about her free-throw shooting. "I've definitely got better at free-throw shooting. Tonight, I did knock a lot of them down. Being aggressive (to get to the line) makes the game go fast, it kind of intimidates the other team. I think that's what we did tonight."
St. Francis finished the game 23 for 35 from the line, forcing the visiting Vikings to commit 20 fouls. Consider their second half free-throw shooting percentage a major slump after the Spartans went 17 for 21 from the line in the first half. Seventy-seven percent of their points in the first half came from the line.
However, for most of the game the Vikings remained competitive despite attempting half as many free throws as their opponent. A suffocating full-court press allowed the Vikings (13-16; 2-6) to tie the game at 12 with three minutes to play in the second quarter. Grace and Kyra Harty sunk back-to-back midrange jumpers and then junior guard Bre'Nea Burks watched her 3-point attempt as it found nothing but net to complete that 7-0 run that tied the game.
"We need to stay focused from when the ball is tipped to when the final horn goes off," DeCraene said. "Sometimes, we have these little brain lapses, we get a little ahead of ourselves. We also need to take care of the ball a little bit better."
The Spartans came out of halftime intent on being more aggressive on the boards. They scored six points off five offensive rebounds in the first five minutes of the third quarter.
"She told us at halftime that we just need to go in there (the paint) because we'd get the putback if we're aggressive down low (with the rebounding)," Chaparro said.
Despite the flurry of offensive rebounding from the Spartans, Burks kept the Vikings close, draining two 3-point field goals to generate six of the Vikings' eight points in the third quarter. The Vikings trailed by 5 at the end of three quarters, but only managed 5 points in the fourth quarter as the Spartans defense clamped down allowing St. Francis to pull away for the victory.
The Spartans return to action on Friday night against Rosary.