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Jackson Mott made it a point to slow down and focus on his breathing every time that he stepped to the charity stripe Friday night at Lo Hunter Gymnasium at Evergreen High School. The senior guard …
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Jackson Mott made it a point to slow down and focus on his breathing every time that he stepped to the charity stripe Friday night at Lo Hunter Gymnasium at Evergreen High School.
The senior guard was calm and collected as he tickled the twine time and again in the eighth-ranked Cougars’ boys basketball game against No. 4 Golden.
“The emphasis this week in practice was our free throws. I think we’re shooting like 50% as a team,” Mott admitted.
Well, actually, it was 48% heading into the top-10 showdown, but who’s counting. Apparently, both Evergreen and Golden were. Fortunately for the home-standing Cougars, they made just enough, scoring their final eight points from the free-throw line in a crucial 43-40 victory.
The win kept Evergreen undefeated in the 4A Jeffco League at 2-0 (3-1 overall) heading into Feb. 30’s all-important showdown with Green Mountain, but it also snapped a string of six losses in the past seven meetings against the Demons.
However, it wasn’t easy.
Evergreen, which trailed only once all night - 2-0 just 18 seconds into the contest - methodically built an 11-points lead three times in the fourth quarter, the final time at 39-28 with 2 minutes, 53 seconds remaining.
The game appeared to be over at that point but nobody told the Demons that. Golden went on a 9-0 run while the Cougars missed free throw after free throw - five straight to be exact - and turned the ball over on an inbound play in the backcourt.
Alan Acevedo’s 3-pointer with 1:03 left pulled the Demons to within 39-37 before Jared Stiller hit two free throws 17 seconds later for the eventual winning points. Even still, the Cougars weren’t out of the woods until Acevedo’s desperation 3-point try - after an offensive rebound - hit the side of the backboard as time expired.
“Golden’s a good team. We were kind of expecting that. They’re a really good team, really well-coached,” said Mott, who finished with a game-high 19 points, including 9-of-12 from the foul line. “Obviously, those free throws didn’t help us, but I think we did a great job of closing them out at the end of the game there.”
Acevedo finished with a team-best 14 points. Richie Pruett added 11 for the Demons (3-2), who lost at home to Green Mountain two nights earlier.
“We knew going into the season that we’re awfully young. I have no seniors at all. We got majority juniors, a couple of sophomores and a freshman, so we knew that we’re going to get some growing pains as we go through this,” said Golden head coach Lou Vullo, who couldn’t have asked for more from his team. “They’re tough and they’re gritty, and they do fight down to the end.”
The victory was Evergreen’s third straight since a one-point loss in the season opener to No. 3 Longmont.
Griffin Lauritano added 12 points for the Cougars, who left the door open multiple times in the final minute for Golden to either win the game or send it to overtime.
“(Golden’s) a great basketball team. They’re a great basketball program,” Lauritano said. “… I know how tough those guys are. They’re really well-coached. It’s never going to be an easy win when you play against those guys. To come out even with any kind of win is a huge boost.”
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