The free-throw line continues to haunt the Hornets.
Huntsville’s troubles from the charity stripe were put on display again Tuesday night and they made the difference in the Hornets’ 48-38 loss to Montgomery.
“They played with more intensity than we did. They pushed the ball more and made their free throws,” said Huntsville senior guard Malik Brown, who led Huntsville with nine points.
The contest between the Hornets (4-3 in District 18-4A action, 10-11 overall) and the Bears was tight throughout with Huntsville holding a 31-30 lead going into the fourth.
“We did a good job of holding Montgomery to one shot. If they’d miss, we’d get the rebound,” Hornets coach Larry Carlson said. “We hit the defensive boards pretty well tonight. If you look at the scorebook, we had all but three kids score. We had a lot of kids contributing and different kids stepped up.”
The advantage could have been greater if not for five missed free throws.
The Hornets and Bears went back and forth in fourth, but it was at the free-throw line where Montgomery took command and ultimately pulled away.
Three times in the period, the Bears took over the lead after conversions at the charity stripe, particularly post Currie Byrd, who sunk seven of eight from the free-throw line in the fourth.
“(Byrd) is just solid,” Carlson said. “He gets rebounds, makes shot and makes nearly all of his free throws. He did that to us last year, too.”
Late in the quarter, the Hornets fell behind 42-38 and had a chance to chip away. Huntsville guard Isaiah Pittman’s 3-pointer was short, he rebounded the ball and had his short jumper clank off the rim.
Montgomery sunk all four of its free three throws in the final minute and also had a last-second layup go through the hoop.
The Bears made 12 of 16 from the free-throw line, while the Hornets made just 12 of 21.
“We need to practice more on free throws rather than dunks or shooting 3s,” Brown said. “We need to get back to basics. If we take care of the little things, the bigger things will take care of themselves.”
With the loss, the Hornets fell in the district standings.
Just one game remains in the first half of district play and the Hornets are looking for some momentum with a road victory over Bryan Rudder on Friday before kicking off the second half next week against Magnolia.
“We’re not out of the playoff picture by any means,” Carlson said, “but we’ve got to become a better free-throw shooting team.”