COLORADO SPRINGS — On a night that free throws weren't friendly to either Widefield or Sierra, it's fitting that their game Tuesday night was decided at the charity stripe.
C.J. Jennings knocked down two and Kion Wingo added one more in the waning seconds to give the Stallions a 65-62 win over the Gladiators.
But the game could've gone either way if only one of the teams would connect on their foul shots. Widefield (9-7 overall, 5-2 Class 4A Colorado Springs Metro League) sank 19 of 32 of their free throws while Sierra (12-4, 7-0) sank only eight of 20, a disappointing 40 percent, in their winning effort.
"Free throws are all mental," Sierra coach Terry Dunn said. "We are much better free throw shooters than that."
Dunn also believes that his team is much cleaner team than what they showed on Tuesday. The Stallions had difficulty knocking down early field goals and Tre Pierre scored 10 quick points for the Gladiators as they jumped out to a quick 14-8 lead.
Sierra finished the first quarter on a 12-4 run to take a 20-18 lead. Jennings exploded in the last four minutes of the quarter, scoring 11 of his team-high 17 in that stretch.
"It's always a good sign to have someone to go to when we need to score," Jennings said. "I feel like I can be that person to step up when the team needs me to."
But then Jennings went dry. He was held scoreless through the entire second and third quarters and only netted one field goal in the fourth.
But it was enough for the Stallions to come away with the win.
Sierra held a 62-54 lead with less than three minutes to play before Tyrone Davis and Lucas Lacy knocked down an couple of 3-pointers for the Gladiators to make it a 62-60 game in the blink of an eye. Jennings was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one and Widefield was able to snag the rebound.
Dazmeir Rodgers drove and connected on the layup to tie the game with 13 seconds remaining. Jennings drove to the basket and was fouled once again. But this time he sank the free throws. The Gladiators had another shot to tie the game and got the ball down low to Pierre, but Jennings tied him up for a jump ball. The possession arrow gave the ball, and essentially the game, to the Stallions.
"We're not happy with this," Widefield coach Mark Munoz said. "We missed double-digit free throws and in a three-point game, that's the difference."
Last year's Sierra team had a tendency of blowing out its opponents as it made its way to the 4A Final 4. This year, the wins are going to be tougher to pull out and Dunn's squad is going to have creative in order to try and repeat their success from a year ago. But it's still a good sign to pull out a tough league game on the road.
"We got a different team this year," Dunn said. "We're not going to blow anybody out. Any win in somebody else's house is a big win."