It took a change of fortunes at the charity stripe, but the Capital girls made sure history didn’t repeat itself Friday night.
After collapsing against Shelton last year, the Cougars this time held off a furious rally down the stretch by the Highclimbers, sinking two final free throws for a 44-40 3A Narrows victory at Shelton High.
Trailing 41-34 with 1:41 remaining, freshman guard Timber Ware took over for the Highclimbers. She buried her third 3-pointer of the second half to make it 41-37. Capital went to the line and converted another free throw, but Ware answered right back with another bucket from behind the arc to pull Shelton within two, 42-40, with four seconds remaining.
The Highclimbers intentionally fouled, but Cougars junior forward Delani West coolly made both free throws and Shelton couldn’t get off a final shot.
For head coach Colleen Wells, the key to the Capital victory came from that free-throw line.
“In the second half we finally started moving the ball more, trying to get the ball inside, and some of our shots fell,” Wells said. “(But) I think free throws made the difference in this game, for both teams.”
Capital shot 29 free throws on the evening, making 16. West was especially good at drawing contact in the second half, going 6 for 8 on free throws — including the two to seal it.
The Cougars weren’t the only ones living at the line. Shelton came out aggressively, attacking the basket and forcing Capital into a slew of early fouls. In the bonus by the 4:09 mark of the first quarter, the Highclimbers steadily built an 11-6 advantage.
Then the Cougars began to show signs of life.
Capital erased the early deficit with a 12-0 run that spanned the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter to take a 18-11 lead. Sophomore wing Ellie Potts led the way, scoring six of those points and converting a three-point play.
The Highclimbers kept getting into the lane and drawing contact, however, racking up 13 free throws in the first half. That kept it close at the break, with the Cougars clinging to a 23-20 lead.
Capital’s defense tightened up on the defensive end, however, and the Cougars never looked back.
“The key for us is our defense,” Wells said. “If we don’t play that kind of defense, we don’t stay in a game.
“We don’t have any height, we’re not the fastest team in the league and we’re not the best shooters in the league, but oh my gosh, we can play defense.”
For Capital, a team that won just four games last season, Friday’s performance had some added significance.
“To be 4-0 right now, with this group of kids, is huge,” Wells said. “Last year, this kind of game we probably would have folded and Shelton would have won.”