Adam Pohlman launched one free throw after another during the offseason in an effort to sharpen his accuracy from the foul line.
It was time well spent and paid off in a major way for the Neenah Rockets in their Fox Valley Association opener.
Pohlman drained two clutch free throws with 1.9 seconds left to break a tie game and lift the Rockets to a dramatic 57-55 boys’ basketball win over Appleton North on Tuesday night.
“I just tried to block out the crowd and go through my routine,” said Pohlman, who scored 13 points to share team scoring honors with Sam Erickson. “I was excited to go to the line and I was lucky enough to knock them down. It’s an amazing feeling to knock down those throws for your team in that situation.”
Pohlman, a junior point guard and third-year starter, struggled with his foul shooting as a sophomore, and made it a point to get better. He is the lone returning starter on a Neenah team that improved to 2-0 overall.
“I think I only shot about 50 percent from the line last year,” said Pohlman. “I knew there were going to be times when the team was going to need me at the line, so I really worked on making free throws.”
Pohlman got to the line on an Appleton North blocking foul after slashing inside the lane with the clock ticking down. He was awarded two shots on a close call that could have been interpreted as a charge. After Pohlman’s free throws, North tossed a long pass downcourt, but it was deflected and the Lightning wasn’t able to get off a shot.
“Adam had the ball at the end and that’s what we wanted,” said Neenah coach Scott Bork. “We felt we could play off what he could create for us and we’re very comfortable when he has the ball. I asked the kids at practice recently, “Who wants the ball at the end of the game?’ And Adam was the first one to answer. After the game, he told me, ‘Coach, I told you I’ve got this.’ “
The Lightning’s Ryan Albers had tied the game at 55-55 with 8.7 seconds left by sinking both ends of a one-and-one.
“Ryan has some moxie, some confidence and he’s very skilled,” said North coach Eric Eastman. “He has a ton of ability and he keeps getting more and more confident.”
Junior guard Michael Lukashewich led the Lightning (2-1 overall, 0-1 FVA) with 19 points, drilling three of North’s eight three-pointers. Albers added 14 points and Connor Gross scored 11.
“I have no regrets,” said Eastman. “I thought our kids played hard and played well. Neenah has a good team. It was a great game and came down to the last play. When a game comes down to the last play, you usually have two teams that are pretty equal. Unfortunately, they had the ball last.”
No more than four points separated the two teams all evening and the two FVA foes combined for 13 threes.
“We’re a team that if we shoot the ball well, we’re going to be OK,” said Bork. “What I liked tonight was that we were able to get some inside buckets, which is huge for us.”
Neenah: Pronschinske 9, Entwisle 3, McCray 7, Pohlman 13, Veldhorst 2, Reshel 2, Heldt 8, Erickson 13. Totals: 20 12-19 57. Three-pointers: Pohlman 2, Entwisle 1, Pronschinke 1, McCray 1. F: 15.
Appleton North: Albers 14, Lukashewich 19, Gross 11, Gerrity 5, VanHandel 3, Eagen 3. Totals: 19 9-11 55. Three-pointers: Lukashewich 2, Albers 2, VanHandel 1, Eagen 1, Gerrity 1. F: 17.
— Tim Froberg: 920-993-1000, ext. 423, firstname.lastname@example.org; On Twitter @twfroberg