When L.A. Baptist Coach Maury Neville takes his boys basketball team to the playoffs, the boys go hungry--at least at lunchtime. Instead of chowing down, the Knights can be found churning up 100 free throws each.
At least two Knights are glad they worked up an appetite. Gary Kim and Paul Luedke each converted a pair of free throws in the final minute of the second overtime to give L.A. Baptist a 46-44 win over Valley Christian in the quarterfinal round of the Southern Section Division 1-A playoffs.
Neville doesn't see anything unusual about shooting accurate free throws before a home crowd of 1,000 in a gymnasium that holds 900.
"The basket isn't moving is it?" Neville said. "It's always in the same place. Just another free throw."
Neville said his team could have avoided the two overtimes if it had been more successful with its free throws throughout the game. The Knights only made 6 of 14.
"The extra practice helps when you're in a pressure situation," Kim said. "And we try to eat something as we shoot."
With 15 seconds left in the first overtime, Kim missed a one-and-one that would have clinched the game for L.A. Baptist.
With balanced scoring, Valley Christian never trailed by more than six points. Scott Youngren, with 10, was the only Crusader to score in double figures.
The Knights defense was part of the reason, forcing 14 Valley Christian turnovers, including four in the final two minutes of the first overtime. Kim had a game-high four steals.
Before the game, Neville said he just hoped his team wouldn't be embarrassed.
"Valley Christian has got a whole lot more talent on paper," he said "It shouldn't even be a contest. We're real little and real skinny."
Neville was right about the difference in size--the Crusaders have five starters over 6-0 and their center is 6-5. But he was way off on everything else.
As the game went into overtime, the Knights, especially Gary Kim at 5-9, seemed to grow.
"We missed some big free throws," Neville said. "It's just another ballgame. They all count as one."
L.A. Baptist (21-3) advances to the semifinals against Crossroads, 65-63 winners over Twenty-nine Palms. Valley Christian finished its season at 21-5.