By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – During months of non-contact practice, one of the things prep basketball players did was shoot free throws. A lot of free throws.
That work paid off Saturday afternoon for Dundee sophomore Drew Bolster. Playing just his third game on the varsity, Bolster hit a crucial free throw with 5.5 seconds left to secure Dundee’s first win of the season, a 51-47 non-league win at Whiteford.
“A lot of our practice is free throws,” Bolster said. “You have to have free throws and tonight I was hitting.”
Bolster hit three of four from the line down the stretch as the Vikings held off Whiteford, who was down by as many as 12 points. He finished with 13 points to lead Dundee in scoring.
“It was huge,” Bolster said of the win. “It’s something we need to build off of. We came out playing as a team tonight. It was a rough start, but we are improving. I just try to keep my head in the game at all times. I made a few mistakes, but I just got back out there and gave it what I had.”
It was the first victory at Dundee for coach Jay Haselschwerdt, who formerly coached the Whiteford girls’ varsity basketball team for five seasons. The Vikings went 1-2 in the first week of the season.
“It was a nice win,” he said. “I thought we played great defense for three quarters. Our offense got a little tentative. It’s a young group, an inexperienced group. You have to learn how to win. I was glad we could pull it out.”
The game was tight early and at the end.
Dundee led 10-7 after the first quarter and went up 26-16 at the half. Second quarter baskets by Elek LaPalme and Zackry Salenbien put the Vikings up 10 at one point. Dundee then came out in the second half with a triple by Carson Irwin and another by Bolster to increase the lead to 34-20.
Whiteford wasn’t done.
Sophomore Luke Rasor helped spur a comeback by burying two fourth quarter triples as the Bobcats pulled within striking distance.
“We went to a zone and they were able to knock down a few,” Haselschwerdt said. “I think when we went back to man and they persevered. It was nice to get a win and get that off our chest.
Isaiah Joerin basket made it 43-40 with 2:58 left, then a free throw he hit with 45.5 seconds to go cut to 46-44. Whiteford had possession of the ball with under 40 seconds down just three but turned the ball over.
A 3-pointer by Josh Hill with 6.8 seconds made it 49-47 but Bolster iced the game a second later after taking the inbounds pass and getting fouled.
Haselschwerdt said Bolster has a bright future ahead of him.
“He’s a great shooter and a great scorer,” the longtime Dundee teacher said. “It’s only his third varsity game. This was his best game, both offensively and defensively. That’s what you like seeing as a coach. You like seeing the growth. There is a bright future ahead.”
Whiteford is also a young team with several new faces playing key roles. Rasor finished with 16 points, Shea Ruddy 10 and Joerin 7 as the Bobcats lost for the first time this week. They are 2-1.
“We just were cold shooting to start the game,” Bobcat coach Nick Abalos said. “We’ve had a good start to the season, but I don’t like to lose, and we couldn’t pull it out today.
“We came back nicely in the second half, we just dug ourselves too big of a hole early. Everyone is getting better. We have some tough games ahead of us. Hopefully, we can keep building confidence.”
DUNDEE: Carner 1(1) 0-0 3, Atkinson 1 0-1 2, Irwin 2(1) 3-4 8, LaPalme 3 6-11 12, Bolster 4(2) 3-4 13, Hamet 1 0-0 2, Salenbien 5 1-2 11. Totals 17(4) 13-22 51.
WHITEFORD: S. Ruddy 3(1) 3-4 10, Rasor 5(3) 3-4 16, Ciesige 3 0-4 6, Andrews 1 0-0 2, Hillard 0 2-4 2, Hill 1(1) 0-0 3, Parker 0 1-2 1, Joerin 2 3-4 7. Totals 15(5) 12-22 47.