DEKALB, Mo. — Free throws had been the Achilles’ heel for South Nodaway the entire game, but when it mattered the most, senior Tanner Davis came through in Wednesday’s 40-38 win over DeKalb in the semifinals of the Platte Valley Invitational.
“It was very clutch,” South Nodaway coach Dustin Skoglund said. “The situation obviously was not ideal — it worked out well for us. For him to step up to the line and make those shots speaks a lot to his character and how far he’s come.”
The top-seeded Longhorns were 3-for-19 from the foul line while DeKalb was 17-for-29 in a game that saw 39 fouls called.
“Today wasn’t our best for shooting,” Davis said.
South Nodaway missed five-straight free throws in the the final 61 seconds and point guard and top free-throw shooter Cade Henggeler fouled out. That kept giving DeKalb chances and with three seconds left, junior Darrin McElfresh took advantage with a driving layup to tie the game at 38-38.
The Longhorns rushed to in-bound the ball and got it to Davis, who wasn’t even going to have time to throw up a full-court heave, but, apparently thinking they were still behind, DeKalb sophomore Cole McElfresh quickly intentionally fouled Davis. The foul was called with one-tenth of a second on the clock and Davis went to the line for the first time all night.
“I didn’t know he fouled me at first and whenever the ref said that he fouled me, I was nervous,” Davis said. “I had to relax when I was up there. … I had to relax, take my time, breathe and hopefully I made them.”
Davis kept the suspense to a minimum by hitting the first foul shot and kicking off the celebration for the Longhorns. He also made the second for a 40-38 win.
“Obviously you want to get a win any time you can,” Skoglund said. “I know we aren’t a perfect shooting team, but I was surprised by how poorly we shot the ball across the board. … To be able to gut one out, so to speak, that is going to be important for us down the road. Win or loss, we needed to feel that in order to be successful in the future.”
While Davis finished with nine points, senior Taylar Freemyer led the Longhorns with 13 points and Henggeler had eight points. Clayton Walker had six points and CJ Sipes and Dakota Coffman each had two points.
The Longhorns will now face second-seeded North Nodaway in the Platte Valley Invitational championship on Friday at 8:30 p.m. in Bearcat Arena.
“Just getting into a rhythm and a flow again is going to be critical for us to be successful on Friday night,” Skoglund said.