With less than two seconds left, West Ranch High boys basketball’s Austin Galuppo stepped up to the free throw line. Of all the shots he took on Tuesday night, this one was the most important.
This was the singular point that could decide the outcome of a tied-up contest against Hart High.
Despite the crowd noise, you could almost hear the soft swoosh of the net as Galuppo scored. The point earned the Wildcats a 49-48 home win — their first victory of Foothill League play after losing the last two contests by a combined seven points.
“A win’s a win,” Galuppo said of winning on a free throw. “I’m not complaining about anything.”
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But really, West Ranch (9-9 overall, 1-2 in league) enhanced its chances of winning in the first quarter. Switching up the offensive gameplan, the team came barreling out of the gate early, scoring five points on its first two possessions.
“We wanted the ball to move. We wanted everyone to touch the ball,” said West Ranch coach Shant Bicakci. “And we wanted to go get the shots for us. We didn’t want to take bad shots, we didn’t want to take contested shots.”
The Wildcats led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter, then 30-16 at the end of the half.
Indians coach Tom Kelly’s halftime message was simple: Hart (12-7, 1-2) had to play with more intensity.
“We didn’t play with intensity and toughness to start the game,” Kelly said, “and we didn’t shoot well to start the game because we were so timid.”
WR and Hart tied with 9 seconds to go https://t.co/fyx2nSnm8S
— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) January 18, 2017
Hart’s Whitten Dominguez and Ben Kaufman answered the call after halftime, scoring 12 points and 13 points, respectively.
Dominguez finished with 17 points, while Kaufman had 18.
West Ranch’s Chris Joo had a team-high 14 points.
With 30 seconds left in the game, Dominguez hit a 3-pointer that tied the score at 48.
But the next time Dominguez’s name was called, it was for the penalty that set up Galuppo’s game-winning free throw.
“The way things have been going the last two games, it just felt like nothing could go our way any time we were right there,” Bicakci said. “On Friday it’s going to be another insane grind-out game again.”