Lubbock Christian forward Jaron Vierra toed the free-throw line with 52.4 seconds left in a nonconference game with the Cowboys on Saturday afternoon in the John A. Wilson Complex, and the Chaparrals led 82-80. A Highlands assistant told the Cowboys to be ready for a rebound because Vierra was just a 50 percent shooter.
They are still waiting for that miss.
Vierra hit all four tries down the stretch as Lubbock Christian went 30-for-37 from the line overall in a 90-88 win.
But free-throw shooting was just a small measure of what NMHU (4-6) is missing right now.
Four of its losses have been by six points or less, and it has head coach Joe Harge completing some drastic changes.
“We have to play better, show a little more toughness,” Harge said. “A little individual defensive toughness, and this team has to grow up a little bit and stop pouting when things go wrong.”
The Cowboys could also stand to heed scouting reports. NMHU knew the Chaparrals could shoot from the perimeter, but that didn’t prevent the defense from giving them open looks.
Lubbock Christian (8-5) hit 7 of 8 3-pointers in the first half, including five in a row at one point to turn a 23-22 Cowboys lead into a 41-30 advantage for the Chaparrals on Jamaal Crayton’s coast-to-coast layup with 1:36 left before the half.
“We told them who shoots it,” Harge said. “And that’s just effort to retain the scouting report. It’s about putting the report into play, and we’re standing around hoping guys would miss.”
One player who benefited from the openings was Vierra, as he hit a pair of 3s during the Chaparrals’ 19-7 run and had 17 points overall. It seemed to rub off at the free-throw line as well.
“He hasn’t had a lot of [free-throw] attempts, and it’s still an indicator,” said Todd Duncan, Chaparrals head coach. “Thank God he hit those two 3s in the first half. Seeing the ball go in does something for your confidence.”
Highlands went on a 3-point barrage of its own in the second half, hitting 5 of 10 at one point.
Pecos graduate Dominick Baca hit three 3s and finished with 15 points, tied for the team high. The last one made it 76-70, Chaparrals, at 4:33.