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For most of the second half, St. Viator held a double-digit lead against Fremd in the quarterfinals of the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. The Lions used a tough man-to-man defense to limit the Vikings’ opportunities at the basket, and guard Ore Arogundade did most of the offensive work.
However in crunch time, it was St. Viator’s ability to execute from the free throw line that made the difference.
The Lions withstood a ferocious fourth-quarter rally by Fremd to eek out a 52-45 victory on Thursday afternoon. St. Viator scored just one field goal in the final five minutes of the game, but their skills from the charity stripe carried them to the win. In the game, the Lions were 7-of-12 from the line, but went 6-of-8 in the fourth.
“We should have never put ourselves in the position where free throws even mattered,” Lions head coach Mike Howland said after the game, with a look of a relief on his face. “We panicked down the stretch, and they made a good run at us. We made our free throws – which was great – but it should have never gotten that far.”
No. 23 St. Viator (11-1) led by 12 points midway through the third quarter, thanks in large part to the offensive work of Arogundade. The junior scored on all sorts of runners and drives, finishing with a game-high 26 points, despite often receiving extra attention from Fremd defenders. He said afterwards his big game was not by design, but because his team needed all the scoring he provided.
“It could be anybody any night, but tonight was just my night,” Arogundade said. “I just took what the defense gave me and made it work.”
Fremd (9-2) went on an 11-1 run to cut the lead down to two with less than two minutes remaining, but couldn’t get the stops they needed in the final minutes. Time after time they put Arogundade on the line, and time after time, the junior deliverd.
“I just had to hit ‘em,” Arogundade said. “Had to give my team the best opportunity to win.”