The Canners went 19-of-23 from the free throw line
Bigerville head coach Steve Elsier had a clear message for his team going into Thursday's game against Newport.
Elsier was expecting a close contest, and having watched his players struggle to hit free throws Wednesday in practice, he stressed to them how much every point would count.
"In practice, we had seven guys in a rotation shoot (one free throw each), and we made 3-of-7," Elsier said. "I emphasized at the end of practice that this game was going to come down to the wire with free throws."
The Canners took Elsier's words to heart, going 19-of-23 from the free throw line and 16-of-20 in the second half in a 67-59 win on their home floor.
The only part Elsier was wrong about was the game didn't exactly come down to the wire. Despite trailing early, the Canners (7-7) dominated much of the second half and led by 16 with two minutes to play before allowing eight late points after emptying their bench.
"We've played them four straight years, and every game hasn't been a blowout," Elsier said. "We're both similar-sized schools. We had a 16-point lead, and I can't remember either team ever having that big a lead in the years we've been playing. But it was about what I figured it would be."
Most of Biglerville's free throws came from junior Noah Ayers, who went 12-of-13 from the line in a 19-point performance. Although he didn't convert a field goal in the second half, Ayers got to the line six times and missed only once in 12 attempts after halftime.
Afterward, Ayers said it took it upon himself to get to the basket as much as possible once he got in a groove from the foul line.
"When we play as a team we play well, but there were times where I thought I needed to take over the game and get us a bucket," Ayers said. "During practice we shoot free throws for at least 10 minutes and it's all about having confidence."
While Ayers stood out for his poise, the Canners got major contributions from most of their rotation on Thursday. Cody Shaffer hit three 3-pointers, Nick Bell and Connor Greist both made key baskets and freshman center Drew Riley was dominant at times in a 14-point performance.
It was the presence of Riley that made arguably the biggest difference in the game. The 6-foot-5 freshman displayed impressive touch around the basket and hit four field goals in the third quarter to help give the Canners an 11-point lead going into the fourth.
"Each game he's gotten a little more playing time and it's worked out really well," Elsier said. "He's playing very well. Still needs to get stronger and quicker on the baseline help, but he's going to be a heck of a player."
Now that they're back to .500, the next step for Biglerville will be staying focused and not looking past any opponents. Elsier felt the Canners' lack of focus hurt them in Tuesday's 52-39 loss to Bermudian Springs, and he made sure they went into Thursday with a better mindset.
With another game on Friday against York County Tech, Biglerville has little time to get complacent. The Canners beat the Spartans, 68-61, when the teams played on Dec. 10.
"I tell the kids,'Don't settle for being average,'" Elsier said. "We had a blip against Bermudian where we played terrible, and we watched that film, and I'm glad we did. Kids need to see that sometimes. If we play tomorrow like we did tonight, we're moving in the right direction."
Biglerville 67, Newport 59
Trevan Dorman 8 3-5 22, Noah Heimbaugh 6 0-0 14, Noah Reich 4 1-2 10, Lebo 3 2-2 8, Gonzalez 1 0-0 3, Grabiec 0 2-2 2, Amenqual 0 0-0 0, Albright 0 0-0 0, Schaeffer 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 8-11 59.
Noah Ayers 3 12-13 19, Drew Riley 7 0-0 14, Cody Shaffer 4 2-2 13, Bell 3 3-3 9, Griest 3 2-4 8, Cox 1 0-0 2, Parker 1 0-1 2, Stitely 0 0-0 0, Brandt 0 0-0 0, Asper 0 0-0 0. Totals —22 19-23 67.
Newport _ 12 _ 16 _ 8 _ 23 _ — _ 59
Biglerville _ 14 _ 17 _ 16 _ 20 _ — _ 67
3-point goals — Newport 7 (Dorman 3, Heimbaugh 2, Reich, Gonzalez), Biglerville 4 (Shaffer 3, Ayers)