It took until the final minute, but the Union basketball Wildcats finally found the separation they wanted to edge past Potosi Wednesday, 67-60.
Union improved to 7-3 on the season.
“Christmas break games when we’re not back in school, you just want to get through it, get the win and get back to practice tomorrow,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said.
Union led 15-14 after one quarter and the teams were tied at the half, 30-30. Union held a 46-45 edge after three quarters.
“I thought they (Potosi) did a really good job,” Simmons said. “We just had some breakdowns tonight that we have to clean up. I think you’re going to have breakdowns in every game, but you’ve got to minimize those. The first half, we tried to dribble everywhere. In the second half, I thought we really played the pass and came off the ball much better. Defensively, we might have gotten a little tired and our defensive urgency lacked until the last two minutes of the game.”
Union held a one-point edge when Wil Strubberg scored and was fouled with 1:08 to play. He knocked down the free throw to give the Wildcats a 61-58 advantage.
“That was a fortunate bounce,” Simmons said. “Again, it was the activity that put us into some good situations. In the first four or five minutes of the fourth quarter, offensive rebounds and loose balls were all going their way. We reminded them that they’ve got to get those stops. We buckled down and got some of them at the end.”
From there, Union put the ball into the hands of Trevor Kelly and the senior made the Trojans foul him.
At the free-throw line, Kelly converted, hitting four shots down the stretch to give Union the seven-point lead
“The first half, he struggled because he was trying to dribble a lot,” Simmons said. “Then, he went off the ball and did a good job moving off the ball and got a lot more open looks. He made a good adjustment in the second half.”
Potosi’s Noah Jacobson, the game’s leading scorer with 29 points, knocked down his final free throw as Potosi struggled to find the net down the stretch.
The win gives the Wildcats a boost going into next week’s Washington Tournament. Union is seeded third and plays St. Dominic Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“I was a little concerned with the start with not many people here on a Wednesday night on Christmas break,” Simmons said. “I was concerned with how they came out. The kids fought through that and overcame adversity. Everybody is excited about tournaments. Playing a team from far away is going to be exciting. I think the entire tournament is evenly matched. St. Dominic is a good team.”
For the game, Kelly was Union’s leading scorer with 24 points. He sank all six of his free-throw attempts and also had two three-point baskets.
In the fourth quarter, Kelly scored 12 points.
Four other players also reached double digits in scoring for Union.
Jacob Towell recorded 13 points and hit three three-point shots. He dished out eight assists as well.
Kale Crawford scored 10 points with eight of them coming in the first quarter.
Strubberg netted 10 points with seven of them coming during the final quarter. He also led Union with 13 rebounds.
Peyton Burke came close to joining them, scoring nine points on a trio of three-point shots.
Union’s other scorer was Lance Corum with a free throw.
For the game, Union was 9-11 from the free-throw line. The Wildcats knocked down eight three-point shots.
After Jacobson, Potosi had one other player reach double figures in scoring. Bryce Reed ended with 11 points.
Zach Haynes scored seven points while Ryker Walton was next with six.
Kaleb Coffman scored four points and Austin Wilson ended with three.
Potosi hit seven three-point baskets and went 9-11 from the free-throw line.