SIOUX CITY – Special attention to free throws in practice this week helped Sioux City West open the New Year on a positive note.
The Wolverines got back to .500 on the season thanks in part of 17 of 20 free throw shooting Saturday afternoon at the Tyson Events Center.
West scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and never trailed after that in handing West Sioux a 76-71 setback during the CNOS Foundation Classic.
The Wolverines, now 4-4, were playing their first game after the holiday break and after the big opening spurt in the fourth quarter, used strong free throw shooting to hold the Falcons at bay.
West knocked down 13 of 15 in the second half and Cliff McCray, who scored the final six points, hit a pair of two-shot opportunities in the final 16 seconds to secure the win.
“Free throws can make or break you,” said West coach Coco Cofield. “Yesterday we made 200 free throws before they could leave the gym and that came into effect today.”
Four of West’s five starters finished in double figures for a team that outscored the Falcons 27-19 in the final eight minutes.
Adien Belt, a 6-foot-5 junior, broke the 20-point barrier for the first time in his career, finishing with 26 points. Belt, who scored 16 second half points, knocked down a couple of big shots in the fourth quarter to offset any type of run West Sioux tried to make.
“Basketball is a game of confidence, having the confidence to shoot the ball when you're open and believe that you can knock it down when you take good shots,” said Cofield. “Adien has the capability of doing that each and every night. He needs to continue to do that because expectations are high for him.”
McCray, a 6-3 junior, finished with 21 points, 15 in the second half, for his fourth game this season of more than 20 and the first time this year that the Wolverines had two in the same game reach 20.
Kory Woodruff chipped in 15 points and five rebounds and Robert Mosey added 10 for West, who faces Sergeant Bluff-Luton on Tuesday.
Hunter Dekkers led West Sioux, falling to 7-3, with 26 points while Chase Koopmans had 15 points and Jake Lynott 11.
West Sioux outscored West 21-16 in the third quarter, erasing a 33-31 halftime lead that West enjoyed after Woodruff knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season just ahead of the intermission buzzer.
West Sioux, though, never got the lead back in the fourth quarter after yielding the first eight points of the frame.
“It was a good team that we played against, a good strong team,” said Cofield. “They won the football state championship. We managed second half to come out with a little better energy. We managed to keep the lead and pull it out.”