Cal Lutheran Coach Ed Anderson had been waiting all season for one of his players to sink a clutch basket in the waning moments of a close ballgame.
Center Steve Cotner seemingly answered that call Wednesday night against Hawaii Hilo when he scored on short jumper to give the Kingsmen a one-point lead with 1:09 left in the game.
Cotner's basket came something extra, however--an offensive foul--which sent Hilo's Gene Arceneaux to the free-throw line in a one-plus-one situation.
Arceneaux calmly made both free-throws and it was the difference as Hilo beat the Kingsmen, 69-66, in a nonconference game at Cal Lutheran.
Cal Lutheran is 2-12 and has lost 11 straight games--six by four points or less.
"It's at the point where instead of playing to win, we're playing not to lose," Anderson said. "We've just got to hang in there. One of these nights it's going to happen for us and, hopefully, it will turn everything around."
If Cal Lutheran wants to change the course of its season, the Kingsmen better do it quickly.
The loss to Hilo comes after a three-game road trip that included nonconference losses to Cal State Bakersfield and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a loss to West Coast Christian in the Kingsmen's NAIA District III conference opener.
Hilo's game against Cal Lutheran completed its four-game trip to the mainland that also included games against Arizona, Grand Canyon College and Cal Poly Pomona.
The Vulcans are 7-10, but their schedule doesn't have many patsies. Five of their losses have been to Georgetown, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma, Iowa and Arizona.
It was a seasoned team that Cal Lutheran played almost even for much of the game.
Cal Lutheran played Hilo close for most of the game as both teams played an up-tempo style and shot for high percentages.
Hilo guard Mike Thrower scored 12 of his game-high 22 points in the first half. The Vulcans shot 60% in the half and 57% for the game.
Cal Lutheran shot 64% in the first half and 57% for the game. Cotner was the leading scorer for the Kingsmen with 16 points.
Hilo was leading, 41-37, at halftime, but the Kingsmen went ahead, 49-47, with 15:07 left in the game on Darren Ranck's 20-foot jumper.
Cal Lutheran built its lead to 53-49 when Pat Gibbs and Cotner hit consecutive shots.
Arceneaux tied the game, 57-57, when he completed a three-point play with 6:58 left in the game. Just under six minutes later, Arceneaux put the Vulcans ahead for good with his free throws.
"If Cal Lutheran shoots the ball all the time like they did tonight, I don't understand how they lost so many games," Hilo Coach Bob Wilson said. "If they keep shooting like that they'll be OK."