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February 15, 2010

Top teams learn the high cost of free throws

MORE: Top 100 Hoops Teams | McDonald's game rosters announced

Dunks can be amazing - and big 3-pointers impressive - but many top teams learned this weekend that free throws are still the name of the game.

Ability - or inability - at the line was the difference in at least five games involving top teams in the RivalsHigh Top 100 boys basketball rankings.

The biggest came in Florida, where No. 19 Winter Park (Fla.) High was stunned in the Class 6A District 4 final by host Edgewater (Fla.) High, 73-71, in overtime.

Winter Park led by 19 in the third quarter but stumbled down the stretch, hitting just 4-of-10 from the line in the final quarter. Star Austin Rivers was just 3-of-9 from the line in the second half.

The biggest miss came in overtime. Winter Park's Robert Lovaglio hit just one-of-two from the line with 10 seconds to go, setting up Edgewater's game-winning three.

Winter Park coach David Bailey credited Edgewater for its hustle and effort, but admitted, "The free throws were critical," he told the Orlando Sentinel .

To Edgewater, too. It hit 14-of-16 from the line in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Kendrick Perry, who hit the game-winning 3, helped put his team in position to win by hitting all eight of his free throws.

"From day one, coach has always told everybody that to be successful, you've got to make free throws," he said.

No. 10 Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill was on both ends of the foul-shot follies this weekend.

On Friday, it held off No. 11 Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, 79-78, when St. Patrick's Derrick Gordon missed a pair with 0.4 seconds left in Union, N.J. (Earlier this season, St. Patrick lost by one to Findlay Prep when it missed a foul shot in the closing seconds.)

The following night, Oak Hill was upset by unranked St. Peter's Prep, which off-set 49 points from Doron Lamb by hitting 14-of-15 free throws down the stretch.

The same formula worked in Tennessee on Friday night.

Memphis (Tenn.) Germantown upset No. 9 Memphis (Tenn.) Ridgeway, 78-63 by going an amazing 22-of-24 from the line in the final quarter.

"We worked on free throws the final 30 minutes of practice all week, and when one of the guys missed a one-and-one, he did extra conditioning work - on his own, not because the coach told him," Germantown coach Newton Mealer told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Being good from the line is great - but sometimes you need to be perfect.

No. 84 Memphis (Tenn.) Central fell short to No. 34 Memphis (Tenn.) White Station, 61-60, when it missed a foul shot with no time remaining.

But don't get too down on Central. Here's the deal: sophomore Andre Applewhite - fouled as the buzzer sounded - made the first two of three pressure-packed free throws, but missed the third.

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