Coaches preach to their players about the importance of making free throws.
Woodmont High boys basketball coach Tim Morris now has a new chapter to add to the lesson plan.
The Wildcats outlasted J.L. Mann 54-52 in their Region 1-AAAA opener Friday night thanks to junior Xavier Kelly’s clutch shooting from the free-throw line late in the game.
Morris didn’t have to do much coaching during a timeout called by Mann with the score tied and Kelly about to step to the line.
“I just told him to step up and make them,” Morris said. “We shoot free throws all the time in practice. We practice and practice, and now here’s a situation we talk about all the time.”
Kelly, who has played on the varsity for three years, didn’t disappoint. The Wildcats snagged the road win and improved to 4-4.
The victory showed how far the Wildcats have come in a short time.
“We played Mann earlier in the preseason tournament and lost by eight or 10. So we knew it would be a tough game coming in,” Morris said.
The Wildcats also have lost their share of overtime matchups with Mann, so Kelly’s performance under pressure took on added value.
Woodmont is hoping to improve on a 14-12 record from 2011-12, when they lost to Dorman in the first round of the playoffs.
The Wildcats have just three seniors. Only one of them started in 2011-12, the coach said.
“We’re real young,” said Morris. “We get a lot of contributions from a lot of different people. I’ve put people in a lot of different situations this year, and they’ve come through.
“We’re experimenting, trying new things. Guys are stepping up and doing a good job.”
The Wildcats will return to action Friday when they host Greenwood in a Region 1-AAAA game.