Park City stuns Morgan on late free throws
Miners fall apart in second half, rebound late for win
Trailing Morgan by two points with just seconds to go, Park City senior Luke Varechok hauled in the inbound pass at half court and dished the ball to junior Khai Lockwood, who chucked the ball across the court to senior Cutter LaPine, who was open just in front of the 3-point arc. LaPine caught it, took a few steps inside and fired a shot.
The ball sailed way wide of the basket, but the referee’s whistle blew, indicating a foul and three free throws for LaPine and the Miners. LaPine kept his wits about him and coolly drained all three to give the Miners the lead with just over a second left. Park City caught the ensuing Hail Mary inbound pass at half court as time expired. The Miners’ student section roared to life and rushed the court in celebration.
“Just like the next person, I enjoy winning, so I certainly wanted to knock those down,” LaPine said. “I’ve been playing for a long time and shot a lot of free throws, so I guess I just had to have confidence in myself that I was going to make them.”
LaPine’s free throws cemented a 48-47 win over Morgan on Wednesday night for the Park City boys basketball team, which improved to 2-0 on the season. The Miners were outscored 29-16 in the second half but still pulled out the victory.
Nobody in the gym was as confident in LaPine, who ended the night with 13 points, as Park City coach Thomas Purcell.
“I just told the team, if there was anyone that I’ve ever coached, anyone that I’ve ever met to shoot those free throws, 100% it’s Cutter,” Purcell said. “Once he was fouled, I knew the game was over.”
For the first half of the game, it didn’t appear as if the Miners would need any late-game heroics. Park City’s offense was dialed in from the opening tip, as the Miners jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Varechok and senior Sebastian Wolf had the hot hands early, combining for 13 of Park City’s 20 points. A couple of 3-pointers from Morgan limited the damage to a 20-8 lead for Park City after the first quarter.
Wolf, who led the Miners with 17 points, continued his hot start in the second quarter with another five points. LaPine drained a 3-pointer as well, and the Miners increased their lead to 14 with a 32-18 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime.
But everything fell apart in the second half, and it started on offense. A bevy of turnovers gave Morgan a few easy points, and the Miners struggled to create open looks. By the time the buzzer sounded for the end of the third quarter, their lead had dwindled to just seven points.
“It was horrible, the turnovers were terrible,” Purcell said. “The lack of intensity on defense was inexcusable, those are all things we have to work on. But again, all things that usually you have to lose a game to learn.”
Morgan took its first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter, but a few missed free throws kept the Miners alive just long enough to set up LaPine’s game-winning free throws. Park City has struggled in the second half in both of its games this season, and it’s clear that the Miners need to learn how to close out games.
“It’s kind of a learning moment that we got to compose ourselves at the end and not let them come back,” LaPine said. “But it feels good to start off the season 2-0.”
Head Coach Miller Hales, arriving at Park City with both D1 playing and coaching experience, has excelled in her first season at the helm, and has her team preparing for the tournament.
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