COLORADO SPRINGS — Free throws have been thorns in the sides of the Mead boys basketball players all season.
On Friday night, that shortcoming caught up with the Mavericks in heartbreaking fashion.
Mead’s debut in the Class 3A state tournament ended with the 18th-seeded Mavericks ruing their missed opportunities, as Alamosa put together a third-quarter rally before handing Mead a 62-60 defeat in overtime.
The Mavericks went 9 for 20 from the free-throw line, missing several key attempts during the fourth quarter and overtime that could have reversed the outcome. Mead went down fighting to the very last second, but unfortunately for the Mavericks Ryan Lozinski’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer caromed off the rim.
“We were definitely inconsistent from the free-throw line,” Mead coach Darin Reese said. “That bit us in a couple of games. It’s just one of those things. You’d like to bury those and make it a little easier on yourself.”
Mead (15-8) seemingly was in control after putting together a 10-0 run late in the second quarter en route to a 31-22 halftime lead.
Alamosa, however, made a quick comeback in the third, outscoring Mead 11-2 during the first three minutes of the frame to tie the contest at 33. From there, neither team led by more than the five-point advantage Alamosa built midway through the fourth quarter. But a rebound basket by Mead senior Austin Hartley with 48 seconds remaining capped a late surge that tied the game at 53-53 and forced overtime.
“They had seniors too that didn’t want to go home,” said Hartley, who led all scorers with 27 points. “They came out and were on fire. They were hitting everything.”
Mead went 3 for 7 from the free-throw line during the fourth quarter and fared even worse during the extra session, making only 1 of 5 attempts. The Mavericks never led during overtime and trailed 61-58 before a drive by Hartley drew Mead within one point.
After forcing a turnover, senior Orel Chavez missed a pair of free throws with 7.3 seconds remaining that could have put Mead ahead or at least tied the game. Instead, Alamosa tacked on one more free throw with 4.8 seconds left and finally celebrated after Lozinski’s final attempt went awry.
“We had a great run at it, but those free throws were still biting us,” Hartley said. “I thought we actually did a good job finishing off. Most of us shot well, even under pressure. We had some unfriendly bounces, but those happen. I’m really proud of my team.”
Although the finish was deflating, the 2011-12 campaign marked a huge step forward for the Mead program, which earned its first state tournament bid in only its second season of varsity play. The Mavericks will lose four seniors — including Hartley, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder — but will return a good portion of starters and contributors.
“We’ll definitely miss our four seniors,” Reese said. “They’ve put three years in, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of seniors to jump-start our program. They’ve done a great job, but we definitely do have kids returning. This whole run of the season, we hope they learn from it and come out even more hungry next year.”
Pat Rooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alamosa 62, Mead 60
At Colorado Springs Christian HS
Triano 1 0-0 3, Chavez 5 0-4 10, Desch 2 1-2 6, Lozinski 3 1-4 7, Hartley 10 6-8 27, Cheung 3 1-2 7, Nelson 0 0-0 0, Golden 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 9-20 60.
Bilderbeck 1 2-2 4, Dorji 7 2-2 19, Meyer 3 1-2 7, T. Martinez 7 0-0 14, Gibbs 5 0-1 10, VanRy 1 0-0 2, Livings 1 2-8 4, R. Martinez 0 2-2 2. Totals 25 9-17 62.
Score by quarters:
Mead 13 18 10 12 7 — 60
Alamosa 10 12 17 14 9 — 62
3-point field goals — Mead (3): Triano, Hartley, Desch; Alamosa (3): Dorji 3. Total fouls — Mead 14, Alamosa 17. Fouled out — T. Martinez. Technical fouls — None.