ANDOVER — Buoyed by a boisterous home crowd, Andover desperately tried to overcome Buhler’s six-point lead, pulling to within two points with less than a minute to go.
But the Crusaders’ Brandon Givens sank critical free throws with 21 and 11.7 seconds to go, allowing Buhler to keep the Trojans at arm’s length and escape with a 63-60 AV-CTL Division III victory.
The Trojans’ Alex Tyler’s try for a tying three-pointer bounced off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Not that Andover didn’t have its chances. But the Trojans (2-3, 2-2) could only hit half of their eight free throws in the final two minutes.
The game was tight throughout, but Andover never led at any point in the second half. The Trojans’ last lead was 37-36 with 2:10 left in the second quarter. Buhler (5-1, 3-1) managed to forge ahead at the break, 41-39, on Quinton Allen’s tie-breaking free throws.
Free throws dogged the Trojans all night. They hit just 50 percent from the line (14 of 28). Buhler wasn’t much better, hitting 18 of 28.
“We got them to miss some free throws to give ourselves a chance, but we came down and were missing free throws too, so we were just trading possessions,” Andover coach Jason Stucky said. “But 14 of 28 isn’t going to get it done in a close game, and our defense, we’re just giving up way too many points in the paint on the drive.
“We cut them off, then we’re not rotating over for the next passæ.æ.æ. they’re just scoring too many easy baskets.”
Even though Andover stayed close in the first half, Stucky gave the Crusaders credit for sound play in the opening period.
“The first half, they were just on fire,” he said. “They’d drive, we’d help, they’d kick and knock down the outside shot. If we felt like we couldn’t help as much, then their drive would be even better.”
Stucky said that Andover’s defensive breakdowns helped Buhler in the game.
“I’ve got to find some guys who are wanting to stop people on defense right now,” Stucky said.
Andover’s 6-foot-6 center, Eric Wreath, and 6-foot guard Thomas Jobe were among the Trojans hampered throughout the game by fouls.
“The reason we’re getting in foul trouble is that we’re not getting down and make people hit us in the chest,” Stucky said. “We’re letting them get by, then playing against them from the side.
Andover did manage to outscore Buhler in three-pointers, but Jobe, who hit two in the game, had fouled out, so Stucky had to turn to Tyler to try to win the game.
“I would have liked to have had him shooting the shot, but Alex and those guys on the floor are equally capable of making that shot,” Stucky said.
Buhler coach Jon McLean said he was surprised that his team wasn’t better from the free-throw line. Blame the raucous Andover crowd for that.
“We’re really a pretty good free-throw shooting team,” McLean said. “We missed some in the last minute, but we made just enough plays to get a win.”
McLean credited his players with fighting to get the road triumph.
“We competed; that’s what I like — we competed all game long,” he said. “When they made a run at us, we stepped up and made plays.”
Buhler (5-1, 3-1) 17 11 13 22 — 63
Andover (2-3, 2-2) 14 12 13 21 — 60
BUHLER: Torgerson 8, S. Massey 4, Lohrentz 12, Givens 14, Allen 14, A. Massey 3, Temel 8. Totals 20 (5) 18-28 63.
ANDOVER: Driver 10, Jobe 13, Tyler 10, Ralston 9, Wreath 2, Garman 2, B. Kvasnicka 3, Oberg 6, Malone 5. Totals 20 (6) 14-28 60.
Andover girls 67, Buhler 35 — The Andover girls led 19-6 after one quarter and handed the Crusaders (4-2, 3-1) their first league loss.
The Trojans (4-1, 3-1) were paced by 11 points each from Kylie Cooper, who gave Andover a commanding presence in the middle despite being hampered throughout the game by foul trouble, and junior Taylor Tilson.
Buhler (4-2, 3-1) 6 12 11 6 — 35
Andover (4-1, 3-1) 19 22 12 14 — 67
BUHLER: Goertzen 2, S. Patterson 5, K. Patterson 8, J. Williams 4, Woodard 2, Dunning 6, Pankratz 6, Gawith 1. Totals 10 (2) 13-32 35.
ANDOVER: Meisch 7, Fritz 2, Bezdek 8, Cranmer 8, Hamblin 6, Cooper 11, T. Tilson 11, Dick 8, Larsen 2, A. Williams 2, S. Tilson 2. Totals 23 (3) 18-29 67.