Free throws can often determine the outcome of a game.
Championships have been lost and seasons have ended because of a team’s ability—or sometimes inability—to convert from the line.
Rivals Poteet and West Mesquite battled down to the wire on Tuesday in a back-and-forth affair that could have changed on a single play.
The difference was razor thin, but the Pirates made 11-of-11 free throws on the night, including all eight attempts in the fourth quarter to help them rally for a 54-51 victory.
Poteet is playoff-bound as it improves to 7-2 in 13-5A, while the Wranglers fall to 4-5.
West Mesquite had done a good job at the charity stripe itself, making 15-of-18, but two of those misses came in the fourth quarter.
The Wranglers had outscored the Pirates 21-6 in the third quarter to turn a big deficit into a 39-35 lead.
After shooting just 3-of-13 coming out after halftime, Poteet started to regain its stroke down the stretch.
Charles Brown converted twice inside, Kevin Nelson and Vernon Malcolm had baskets and Tyler Jones drained one of his 5 3-pointers on the night as part of a 13-4 run that allowed them to surge back in front at 48-43.
Glendon Gilbert scored for West Mesquite and Eli Hughey turned a steal into a layup to close to within 50-48 with 2:00 left.
The Wranglers put Poteet on the line and they did not flinch, as Brown converted a pair of free throws to make it 52-48.
Hughey brought West Mesquite back to within a point with a three-point play, but the Pirates got the ball in the hands of Jones, and the senior made two more to push the lead to 54-51 with 12.8 seconds left.
The Wranglers got one final shot to potentially tie it up, but it was off the mark, allowing Poteet to take a deep breath and celebrate.
While Jones was clutch at the free throw line late, it was his work behind the arc that staked the Pirates to an early lead.
Jones, who finished the night with a game-high 21 points, knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter and Jalon Alexander added another as they grabbed a 14-6 lead.
Nelson was a key for Poteet in the second quarter, scoring seven of his 13 points and Jones hit his fourth trey to make it 22-13.
West Mesquite was able to hang around, as Dasani Coffee hit a 3-pointer and Eli Hughey, who led the Wranglers with 18 points, had a three-point play and made a pair of free throws to close the gap to 24-18.
But in the final minute before the break, Malcolm Vernon hit a jumper and Javonte Valdes was fouled as time expired and he made all three free throws to give the Pirates a 29-18 advantage.
West Mesquite looked like a different team coming out for the second half, as they reeled off a 11-0 run.
Glendon Gilbert scored inside, Coffee and Hughey connected from the outside and Josh Bennett had a breakaway dunk as they tied it at 29-29.
Poteet temporarily stemmed the tide, but three-point plays from Bennett and Iraun Hawkins late in the third allowed the Wranglers to push out to a 39-35 lead.
The game remained tight throughout the fourth quarter, with the biggest lead for either team being a five-point cushion, but the Pirates made enough plays when it counted to hold on for the victory.