For the Davis Darts on Tuesday night, free-throw shooting quickly became the focal point of their scoring.
Without a single basket made in the fourth quarter against the Cottonwood Colts, the Darts converted on 17 of 20 free throw attempts to capture a 10-point victory, 46-36.
“We practice our free throws daily,” said Darts coach Jay Welk. “Our free-throw shooting is as good as it’s been the past couple of games, and we’ve hit them tonight when we needed them the most.”
With a nine-point lead heading into the final quarter, the Colts were just a few team fouls away from giving the Darts the opportunity to shoot free throws.
Before long, Tyson Denney became the first Dart to hit the free-throw line, making both attempts to maintain Davis’ nine-point lead.
The remainder of the quarter became a free-throw clinic as both teams were in the double-bonus at roughly the six-minute mark. Davis ended up going to the free-throw line 10 times while converting 85 percent of their attempts.
Overall, the Darts converted on 27 of 35 free-throw attempts, accounting for nearly 59 percent of the team’s points that night.
“Cottonwood did a lot of good things against us, they deserve a ton of the credit,” said Welk. “They started to dictate things on the floor and were in control of the game at certain points. Our defense really stepped up tonight during the first three quarters and put a stop to them early.”
While Cottonwood was able to score 16 points in the final quarter, the Colts were held to just 15 points in the first half thanks to a stingy Darts defense. Clinging to a three-point lead to start the second half, Davis’ defense again held the Colts to just five points.
Cottonwood opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, then didn’t score again until a buzzer-beater fell in off the hand of Ryan MacKay.
“We’ve been defending really well this year,” said Welk. “We’ve kept our opponents to a low shooting percentage, which has allowed us to out-rebound them in most games. It didn’t really work in this game because we were out rebounded, but we’ve done well this season overall.”
Davis scored in double figures in two of the first three quarters of play in order to build its lead up to nine points entering the final eight minutes of the game.
The Darts had four different players sent to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, with Denney hitting on all six of his attempts.
Welk, while praising the defense for most of the game, still showed concern when told that 13 of Cottonwood’s points that night were converted either off of turnovers or second chance points offensively.
“At the same time, I was really proud of the way they handled the pressure tonight,” he said. “Whether they went to a full-court or a half-court pressure defense, we were able to handle it very well. That’s something to be proud of.”
The Darts shot just 28 percent from the floor, but converted on 77 percent of the team’s free-throw attempts. Davis was led by Denney offensively, who scored 14 points with four rebounds on the night.
Abel Porter had 13 points and Braden Koellicker had eight points with eight rebounds and three steals.
MacKay led the Colts with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Connor Durrant and Steven Haglund each finished with eight points in the loss.
Davis has won three straight and will take part in this weekend’s Great Western Shootout, which starts Thursday afternoon.
The Colts, losers of three straight, will take on Hillcrest Thursday night.