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By Matt Lofgren | Correspondent
In the waning minutes of Tuesday night's game at James A. Garfield High School, Crestwood senior guard Jacob Klock stepped up to the free-throw line for a pivotal two shots and his team up 43-42.
With the electricity of the G-Men student section rocking the court, Klock sank a pair of free throws to force a Hail Mary lob by Garfield that couldn't find its way through the net. Klock's clutch shots paved the way for a 45-42 win and second straight victory to start the season for the Red Devils.
Garfield fell to 0-2.
"I couldn't tell you (what was going through my head)," Klock said. "It was just nerve-wracking and when I went to the free-throw line I had butterflies. But, after I made two, I knew it was ours."
Working in the man defense all game long, Crestwood coach Al Mielcarek told his players before the free throws that if Klock made both, the team would switch to a zone defense to force a bad perimeter shot.
"What made it so big was that (Klock) dictated the defense we'd go back in," Mielcarek said. "Once we got up, we dropped back in a zone in the first set of free throws that he went through."
"So in the free throws, you have to realize, the overall course of the game and understand the importance of both ends. By him making those free throws, it allowed us to dictate the defense," Mielcarek said.
Perhaps the biggest factor for both teams was the crowd. Separated by just 10 miles from one another, both sides packed into the Garfield gymnasium looking to make an impact on the game.
"The PTC, the people definitely come out and support their teams," Mielcarek said. "This is my second year here ... this is a fun atmosphere here always to coach in and I think the kids need to realize that this is pressure. They've got to control their blood level out there and realize that it's going to be pumped up action and hot, and people screaming. So, I think we did a good job with that because when it was the loudest, we hit some free throws."
Klock added 12 points to his team's efforts, but it was senior Trevor Sweet who led his team with 16 points, most of which coming off touch angled shots in the paint.
"I think our bigs played well for the most part, playing in foul trouble," Mielcarek said. "Our guards had a little bit more problems with that in a tight game. You've got to realize that, on the road especially, you've got to take into consideration and be careful with your fouls."
With over seven minutes left in the fourth, the G-Men entered the bonus and almost altered the Crestwood defensive game plan. Two minutes later, the G-Men were in the double-bonus.
The real trouble for the Red Devils came in a seven-minute stretch that spanned from three minutes left in the third quarter until four minutes left in the game. It was during that stretch that the Crestwood free throws were so crucial to the win by sinking 5-of-6 freebies.
"I'd rather learn lessons from wins than from losses, so there's a lot to be learned tonight," Mielcarek said. "We're considering ourselves lucky."