LITTLETON — Tim Ladwig and Tyus Gallegos-Jones saw a lot of the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and overtime for the Littleton Lions, and they made the most of their opportunities.
Ladwig was 10-of-14 from the charity stripe, including 7-of-10 in the game’s final 7 minutes, 30 seconds, and Gallegos-Jones made six straight foul shots to close overtime as Littleton toppled future 4A Jeffco foe Conifer 63-58 on Dec. 19 at Littleton High School. The win was the first of the season for the Lions and the first under head coach Ryan Fletcher.
“We needed this one for sure,” Fletcher said. “We’ve worked hard. We’ve gotten pretty close a few times, but we kept coming up short. I’m pleased about being able to pull it out after being down by so much.”
Littleton actually led for much of the first three quarters, going up 38-28 early in the third, but Conifer went on a quarter-closing 15-1 run sparked by the play of Micah Furman. He scored eight straight points en route to 13 for the game, and the Lobos led 43-39 going into the fourth.
The lead grew to 47-41 with 3:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Littleton scored 17 of its final 22 points from the charity stripe to snap a 10-game losing streak that dated to last season.
“During practices we just shoot free throws all the time. It really paid off here,” said Ladwig, who, along with Austin Bieber, led four players in double figures for Littleton (1-7) with 14 points each. Seth Nice and Gallegos-Jones added 11 points apiece. “The pressure doesn’t really get to us because we have to run so much if we miss.”
Luckily for the Lions, they didn’t miss often. Littleton finished 22-of-30 from the line, including 17-of-23 in the fourth quarter and overtime. By comparison, the Lobos were 13-of-18 for the game.
The loss was Conifer’s sixth straight after a 2-0 start. Five of those losses have come by eight points or less.
“We’re not a team that’s necessarily used to winning,” said Will Stevenson, who led Conifer with a game-high 18 points. “We need to play every possession to the max. We’re not finishing; we’re not getting the rebounds we need to get. Once we get there, we’ll be a changed team. I’m excited for that.”
Conifer (2-6) sent the game to overtime after a Stevenson layup with 14.7 seconds left tied the score at 51 and Gallegos-Jones missed a potential game-winner in the closing seconds. The Lobos led 55-54 with 1:02 left in overtime, but a three-point play from Bieber ignited a game-ending 9-3 Littleton run.
“It’s tough to sell the kids on the concept of a silver lining. There were very few games last year where we lost by less than 15 or 20 points,” first-year Conifer head coach Eric Valerio said. “By staying in games, we’re making changes, but for a lot of the kids it may not be dramatic enough. They’re working their butts off, and we are getting better. We’re almost there. You spot us five points, and we’re 7-1.”
Dustin Morrison added 10 points for Conifer.
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.