Tyler Petersen

Exira-EHK’s Tyler Petersen (4) moves around CAM’s Connor McKee.

ELK HORN – How important is good free-throw shooting?

Exira-EHK was a primary example Friday night.

Trailing the entire game against Woodward Academy, the Spartans began catching up against their non-conference foes before taking their first lead with about three minutes left.

The Knights began to foul, and the Spartans drained the bulk of their 12-of-17 shooting in the final three minutes to come away with the 55-49 homecourt victory in their regular-season finale.

“I felt they panicked a little bit and they had to foul and we knocked down a few free throws to put it away,” said Newton.

Tyler Petersen had the steady hand for the Spartans down the stretch, going 9-for-12 to salt the game away.

“He did a good job of managing the basketball and they fouled him and he kept making free throws and they kept fouling him,” said Newton. “He kept at the line with quite a bit of confidence. He shoots it pretty well for us.”

The Spartans have been going through the flu bug this past week – several players, including Trey Petersen, William Paulsen and Ethan Andersen – but the ones who did play came through in the clutch, including Aiden Pots, who had a key three-point basket and pair of free throws in the fourth quarter to help put the Knights away.

Petersen ended with 18, while Creighton Nelson had the team-high 22, with much of his scoring coming on contested shots.

“He (Nelson) was never lonely in there. They always knew where he was and always had a hand on him.”

The Spartans, who end the regular season 11-10, now wait until Thursday, Feb. 20, to retake the court for Iowa Class 1A district basketball and their quarterfinal opponent, Stanton. The Vikings are the Corner Conference champions, a team Exira-EHK scrimmaged over the Christmas break.

“I’d say they (Stanton) won that contest but we didn’t play particularly well, and that may have been what they were doing to us,” said Newton. “If we play a little bit of basketball we should be able to hang with them.”