BERLIN -- In a venue featuring some of the best basketball players in the state of Ohio, Classic in the Country Challenge was far from a free throw clinic.
Through the first five games on Saturday, teams were barely shooting 50 percent from the free throw line. And that was thanks to some sharp shooting from Cincinnati Glen Este that shot 12 of 16 (75 percent) and Mount Notre Dame, which made 7 of 10 (70 percent).
Even a team like West Holmes that is familiar with playing in the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center and the atmosphere surrounding the event, had a hard time hitting the mark form the charity stripe. The Knights missed three more free throws than they made, yet still managed to eke out a victory over Chippewa, which also struggled from the line, going 11-for 25.
Hiland had the highest team free throw percentage of all 28 teams playing at the Classic, shooting .802. Lakota West and Mount Notre Dame were next at .703. The top 10 teams topped out at 65 percent.
Hiland assistant coach Dave 'Cousy' Borter says free throw shooting is a lost art, despite how many games are won and lost at the stripe.
"Many close games come down to making a free throw. When the game gets tight, you know what's going to happen," Borter said. "More kids are worried about making the 3-pointer than hitting free throws. I'd like to see some numbers on how the free throws have declined since the 3-point shot began in the 1980s."
Borter says it depends who is on the line shooting most of the free throws. "We do a good job getting the right people to the line," he said.
Borter says many teams practice shooting free throws late in practice when teams are tired to best give them game situations.
To get an idea of how good the competition at Classic in the County is, the Hiland Hawks are ranked No. 6 in the latest poll in D-IV.
Hiland defeated West Holmes 77-19; West Holmes defeated Chippewa 44-40; Chippewa has won 51 of its last 52 Wayne County Athletic League games.
Then the Hawks went toe-to-toe with the reigning Div. III champion Africentric Nubians, considered by some pundits, (Ohio Girls Basketball Report) to be the best team in any division, and pulled out a hard-fought 67-60 triumph in overtime.
Not bad for the No. 6 team in D-IV.
Coach Dave Schlabach says his team was just flying under the radar.
HOOSIERS, GIRLS STYLE
Indiana's top-rated team out of Fort Wayne Homestead came to Classic in the Country and took down Ohio's current No. 1-rated team Mason 53-46, led by University of Florida-bound Karissa McLaughlin.
McLaughlin pumped in a game-high 23 and dished off five assists and four rebounds. Backcourt mate Madisen Parker added 21 points, including four 3-pointers.
Coach Rod Parker of the Spartans did not need to pull out his measuring tape or any of the tricks Gene Hackman pulled in the classic basketball movie Hoosiers.
The Spartans turned up the defense in the second half, clamped down on Mason during a 15-0 run to turn a five point deficit into a 10-point lead as they sent the Comets to their first loss of the season (10-1).