GOREVILLE — Since taking over as head coach at his alma mater on May 30, Hamilton County’s Doug Miller has stressed finishing games over and over.
On Tuesday night, the Foxes showed that they paid attention to their new coach.
Robbie Morgan and Gus Walden combined to sink 5-of-6 free throws in the final 33.3 seconds as Hamilton County subdued Goreville 53-49 in the seventh annual Goreville Invitational Tournament.
“You can’t keep making these kids run drill after drill over and over without getting a result,” Miller said. “Now I can preach to keep doing it because we have a result.”
Down 49-48 after the Blackcats’ Landon Albright converted inside with less than 90 seconds left, the Foxes (1-1) got a break when Goreville missed three straight free throws that could have expanded its lead.
After Miller used a timeout with 43.4 seconds left to set up a play, Morgan drew a foul while battling for post position with Albright with 33.2 ticks on the clock. Morgan calmly sank both ends of a one-and-one for a 50-49 edge.
The Blackcats’ Logan Hankins missed an open 3-pointer from the corner, and the rebound went out of bounds to Hamilton County with 12.1 seconds left. Following a timeout to prevent a 5-second call, Morgan was fouled by Albright with 10.2 seconds remaining and drained two more free throws for a three-point lead.
Sophomore Kanon Webb tried a corner 3 for the tie with less than five seconds left, but couldn’t connect and Walden grabbed his 12th rebound of the night. Drawing a foul with 0.6 seconds remaining, Walden hit the second of two free throws to wrap it up.
That the Foxes won it at the foul line was a 180-degree turn from Monday night, when they made only 1-of-7 in a loss to Anna-Jonesboro.
“We shot them this morning and again in eighth period,” Miller said. “We told them, ‘You have to have confidence.’”
That Hamilton County got into position to win it at the foul line can be attributed to its ability to finally break Goreville pressure and then punish it by scoring. The Blackcats got mileage from a fullcourt press in the second quarter, when they broke a 10-10 tie with a 13-4 run and took a 25-16 lead to the half.
Goreville (0-2) then upped its lead to 29-18 early in the third quarter. At that point, it was shooting 54.2 percent from the field, making the extra pass to get good looks and also converting a spate of difficult runners in the lane.
However, Hunter Braden canned a pair of 3-pointers for the Foxes. Walden turned an offensive rebound into a pair of points and Austin Gray also scored off a missed shot. When Morgan shook loose off an inbounds play with 1.9 seconds left and sank a short jumper, Hamilton County trailed just 39-37.
“We let them get the momentum back,” Blackcats coach Todd Tripp said. “Give them credit. They did some good things. They beat our press and then they hit free throws when they needed to. We’re going through growing pains.”
Albright, a key reserve on last year’s team that reached the Class 1A semifinals, scored 13 points before fouling out. Logyn Frassato added 10.
Morgan finished with a game-high 14 points for the Foxes, while Garrett Webb hit for 13. Walden chipped in 11 to finish with a double-double.
Hardin County and Benton were the other winners Tuesday night. The Cougars outscored Johnston City 20-13 in the fourth quarter to pick up a 52-45 decision and up their record to 2-0, while the Rangers cruised to a 45-31 decision over Anna-Jonesboro.