Late free throws key CR boys to 57-48 2nd round win

CR’s Shaft Clark puts up a short jumper with Jaeden Fitzhugh of Tower Hill trying to block. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

CAMDEN — Jaden Corbett knows the importance of making free throws.

He and his Caesar Rodney High teammates practice shooting them every day.

It paid off Thursday night as the fourth-seeded Riders went 12-for-12 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter of the team’s 57-48 win over Tower Hill in the second round of the DIAA boys’ basketball state tournament.

“Hard work pays off,” Corbett said. “Every day we shoot free throws in practice, so just go to the line and knock them down. Down the stretch, it’s big, you want to make free throws to extend the lead.”

The second-round win sets the Riders (16-5) up in Saturday’s quarterfinal round against fifth-seeded St. George’s Tech. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. at Dover High.

Kamal Marvel of Caesar Rodney trying to get a shot off defended by Tower Hill’s Donoven Mack.

“One of the things we work on in practice is situations,” said Riders coach Freeman Williams. “Whether you’re up by a certain amount or down by a certain amount, and we’ve been working hard on finishing games, so it was nice that down the stretch we made our free throws.”

The senior guard Corbett and senior forward Shaft Clark each scored a game-high 16 points, with Corbett finishing the game 7-for-7 from the line.

“When we knew they were going to start fouling we tried to give it to our best free throw shooter,” said Clark. “I think that was probably the best we shot from the free throw line this year, so that was good.”

Senior guard Jayquan Eaton added 13 points, six of which he scored at the free throw line. As a team, the Riders finished 23-for-28 (82%) at the line.

“This is a really unselfish group, so they don’t really worry about who scores the most points,” Williams said. “One of the things we value a lot is the hockey assist – you know, the assist that led to the assist – and so we just want to continue to share the basketball and we want to continue to get better.”

Jayden Corbett of CR drives the baseline ahead of Tower Hill’s Alexander McClendon.

The Riders enjoyed a quick start on both ends of the court, with Clark and Corbett combining to score all 13 of CR’s first quarter points.

“We just wanted to play good defense like we always do, get good shots and swing the ball,” Clark said of the game plan.

With a solid defensive effort through the first 16 minutes, the Riders jumped out ahead 26-15 at the halftime break.

“If you’re playing hard on the defensive end, it’s going to lead to easy baskets and just set the tone for the game,” explained Williams.

The Hillers (14-7) clamped down on defense in the third quarter, pressing the Riders and converting turnovers into points. The Hillers opened the second half on an 8-3 run.

Tower Hill out-scored Caesar Rodney 13-7 in the quarter to pull to within 33-28 heading into the final eight minutes.

Rider Zayqyan Eaton shoots from 3-point range with Tower Hill’s Julian Jackson trying to block.

“I thought they did a nice job, I just thought they competed,” Williams said of Tower Hill. “They’re a good team, and it’s a tournament game, kids are going to play hard.”

The fourth quarter proved to be the game’s highest-scoring quarter for both squads, with the Riders out-scoring the Hillers 24-20.

“Between the third and fourth quarters we talked about team rebounding and putting stops together on the defensive end,” Williams said.

James Allen, Tower Hill’s leading scorer with 15 points, made a trio of three-pointers in the quarter, including one that brought the Hillers to within 42-39 with 4:11 to play.

Following a quick timeout, the Riders finished the game on a 15-9 run, including eight free throws in the final 49 seconds to clinch its place in the quarterfinals.

“Quarterfinals are on Saturday, so we just have to have a good practice on Friday and get ready for a good St. George’s team,” Williams said.

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