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WATERLOO — It doesn’t seem like much — a 15-foot shot. No one to block the shot, just a shooter and the ball.
It might be known as the freebie in basketball but free throws weren’t a guarantee Friday night.
The foul line proved costly on the road for Columbia City girls’ basketball. Going 5-for-16 at Northeast Hoosier Conference foe DeKalb, the Lady Eagles went 0-for-6 in the fourth quarter opening the door for the Lady Barons.
A struggling start finished with a sloppy conclusion with DeKalb dribbling away in the final seconds 36-35.
It’s the second consecutive loss for Columbia City and in both free throws were the Achilles heel with the two games decided by a total of five points.
“We didn’t convert at the free throw line, bottom line,” Columbia City head coach Amy Shearer said. “We didn’t at Homestead and we didn’t here. That’s the game. End of story.”
While free throws were the biggest piece missing in the puzzle, rebounds put the Lady Eagles in a jam early.
Second, third and fourth chances helped DeKalb build up a 16-8 lead over the first quarter as Haley Martin and Rachel Dincoff covered the offensive glass. The two Lady Barons scored eight points a piece in the paint.
“That first quarter really hurt us,” Shearer stated. “We didn’t come out ready to play and just got pushed off the ball.”
Despite finishing negative 10 in the rebound margin, Columbia City used it’s speed on defense to close a lead growing into double digits.
As it hit 10 points, 20-10, Columbia City finished on a 10-4 run over the last five minutes of the first half.
While four Lady Eagles contributed, junior Sidney Bunyan took City into the locker room with the momentum.
Bunyan’s steal with 1:08 left turned into the first of two three-point plays for the Eagle guard.
“Sid(ney) did a great job for us tonight,” Shearer noted. “She went hard to the basket and helped us get back in it.”
The defensive intensity met its climax in the third quarter as Columbia City gained the lead. DeKalb was held to two points in part to eight turnovers forced by the Lady Eagles.
“We played a great third quarter,” Shearer admitted. “We moved the ball like we needed to and were active on defense — which was good to see because the third quarter has been our Achilles heel.”
It was the fourth quarter Columbia City wishes it could have back.
After outscoring DeKalb 11-2 and limiting the Lady Barons to five shots attempted in the third, the Lady Eagles found their own 33-26 lead dwindling fast in the fourth quarter.
After scoring the opening basket with 7:28 remaining, Columbia City went more than five and a half minutes without a basket.
In that time, the Lady Eagles went to the free throw line on three different occasions with a chance to cut the lead to one or tie. Five free throws attempted found iron as an 0-for-6 fourth quarter sealed the victory for DeKalb.
Down 36-35 with a minute remaining, Columbia City turned the ball over twice. On a third opportunity, Martin blocked a Kayla Dunn shot in the lane forcing a loose ball as time expired.