HANCOCK - To the aggressor went the spoils.
The Hancock and Chassell boys' basketball teams played dead-even basketball for 28 minutes Friday night, but with the score knotted at 42-42 midway through the final quarter, the Bulldogs fought through some physical Panther defense to earn 12 fourth-period free throw attempts and a 55-49 win.
"We got into some foul trouble at the end and that really gave them an advantage," Chassell coach Steve Spahn said. "They hit every free throw with four minutes left and that was too much to overcome. Them getting (the double) bonus with four minutes left in the game really hurt us."
Hancock forward Alex Almquist shoots a jump-hook over Chassell’s Evan Huhta Friday night. Almquist led all scorers with 19 points. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
Chassell knocked down eight three-pointers for the game against Hancock's multiple zone defenses, but only took four total trips to the charity stripe. Hancock knocked down 14-of-21 free throws in all.
"(Chassell) was really aggressive on defense, their hands were everywhere, so we had to be even more aggressive," Hancock coach Curtis Wittenberg said.
Bulldogs forward Alex Almquist led all scorers with 19 points, but his patience and passing were most prominent against a Chassell defense that often went all-in double-teaming him.
After a Josh Pietila three-pointer (his third of the game) gave the Panthers a one-point lead with less than three minutes remaining, Almquist immediately responded by splitting a double-team to find senior Brian Kass (nine points) for a wide open layup. Almquist then gave Hancock a two-possession lead with an old-fashioned three-point play the next time down to permanently put the Bulldogs ahead.
After starting the season 0-5, Hancock has now won seven in a row.
"We have gotten a little help scoring since Christmas break for Alex," Wittenberg said. "It gives us a few more options that other teams have to think about. Everyone is going to key on him and double him anyways, so it is just a matter for our kids to keep knocking down shots."
"(Kass) slipped in there and got a layup. We were supposed to have that covered but we didn't," Spahn added.
To counter some balanced scoring from Hancock - four players finished with seven or more for the Bulldogs - Chassell stayed patient against the zone and put together their best outside shooting game of the season, according to Spahn.
The Panthers knocked down six threes in the first half as quick ball-reversals freed their quartet of guards.
"I thought we did a great job working the ball and looking for the openings in their zone," Spahn said. "I thought we were patient and I thought we picked our chances."
Hancock limited the Panthers to just two more threes and only 20 points after intermission.
"(Three-pointers) was our whole halftime talk," Wittenberg said. "That was my main focus at the half. Especially in the corner, they were open and we seemed to be moving one pass too late."