GRANGER TWP. — With the ability to shoot free throws lacking at all levels of basketball, the performance of Highland’s Tanner Houska should be used as an example of how it’s supposed to be done.
Houska wore a path to the line Friday and led Highland to a 59-54 Suburban League win over Tallmadge.
The sophomore point guard made 12-of-14 free throws and scored a career-high 25 points as the Hornets (10-7, 6-4) had to fight off the feisty Blue Devils (4-12, 2-8), who were gunning for a big upset.
Houska scored 17 points in the second half as Tallmadge kept fighting back from double-digit deficits.
“There are certain teams that he just matches up well with,” Highland coach Michael Murphy said. “This is one of them. Teams that have some big guys that just hang around the lane and play off him, he needs to do a better job shooting the ball. But teams that pressure him a little bit, he gets to the basket pretty well. He carried us. I know that.”
After missing his first attempt from the line, Houska hit 12 straight before missing his last attempt.
“Obviously, teams struggle when they don’t make free throws,” Houska said. “As of late, the whole team has been shooting it well from the line.”
With his team clinging to a 54-52 lead after Tallmadge guard Anthony Gotto (19 points, 4 3-pointers) banked in a three, Houska made the biggest play of the night when he drove into the lane and made an acrobatic layup amid the trees in the paint. The basket also gave him a career high in points.
“I tried to get to the hoop as much as I could,” Houska said. “We were trying to take advantage of all the mismatches that we could on the floor.”
The second-half heroics of Houska might not have mattered if not for the first-quarter play of the Scott brothers. Brennan (6 points, 9 rebounds) and Brogan (12, 7) had 14 of their team’s 19 points as Highland led by 10.
The lead ballooned when Austin Casenhiser (10 points) opened the second quarter with a trifecta, but Tallmadge whittled it to 29-28 with 1:34 to go until the half.
“It felt like we would stretch it to 10 or 11, and it was on the cusp of being 15 and moving on,” Murphy said. “Then all of a sudden I would look up and it was three or four.”
The Blue Devils got within a point twice in the second half, but each time Highland found a way to extend the lead back out to a multiple-possession game.
|The players tossed traditional T-shirts during introductions. Each time it turned into a tug-of-war between the players on the third- through sixth-grade teams introduced at halftime.
l Gotto was awarded a basket and a free throw when the officials whistled a foul. The problem was, Gotto missed the shot, got fouled, got his own rebound and then laid the ball in.
l Highland won the junior varsity game 54-43 behind 15 points from Kevin Greenhoe and 13 from Billy Kirchner.
Contact Chad Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland 59, Tallmadge 54
TALLMADGE 9 19 10 16 — 54
HIGHLAND 19 12 15 13 — 59
Tallmadge — Bryon Cook 1-0-3, Damon Gidley 3-3-9, Andrew Francesconi 4-0-8, Nate Bickar 0-1-1, Anthony Gotto 7-1-19, Colten Stricker 3-0-6, Joe Vassalotti 2-0-6, John Rensel 1-0-2. TOTALS: 21-5-54.
Highland — Brennan Scott 3-0-6, Brogan Scott 5-2-12, Austin Adams 2-0-4, Jordan Frederick 0-0-0, Tanner Houska 6-12-25, Alex Wood 0-2-2, Austin Casenhiser 4-1-10, Myles Houska 0-0-0, Coltin Kinsey 0-0-0, Alex Withers 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-17-59.
3-point goals — Gotto 4, Vassolotti 2, Cook, Houska, Casenhiser. Rebounds — Tallmadge 27 (Rensel 6), Hoghland 28 (Bre. Scott 9). Assists — Tallmadge 14 (Gotto 3), Highland 7 (Adams 3). Records — Highland (10-7, 6-4), Tallmadge (4-14, 2-8). Junior varsity — Highland 54, Tallmadge 43.