JOHNSBURG – Mitch Kohley’s previous two trips to the free-throw line hadn’t gone according to plan.
On both occasions, the Woodstock senior had missed the front end of one-and-one opportunities, preventing the Blue Streaks from expanding their lead against Johnsburg. But after coming up with a steal with his team clinging to a three-point lead, Kohley again found himself at the line.
This time, he made sure he didn’t miss.
Kohley’s two free throws with 15.1 seconds remaining allowed the Streaks to hang on for a 49-44 Fox Valley Conference Fox Division win Saturday night.
“You’ve got to forget [the misses] real quick because in basketball, each possession is so quick,” Kohley said. “I had to forget about it, go back on defense and then come back and hit them.”
Kohley’s game-clinching free throws closed an impressive fourth quarter when he sparked an 8-0 Woodstock run, turning a three-point deficit into a five-point lead. Kohley connected on a 3-point field goal before hitting a mid-range jumpshot, giving the Streaks (9-13, 4-4 Fox) the lead for good.
Kohley (10 points) sparked Woodstock’s offense along with Marcus Ammirati, who scored 12 points in his first game since early January.
“It’s one of those times when the story very easily could have been, ‘We kept fighting, we kept fighting and we just couldn’t push it over,’” Woodstock coach Al Baker said. “Tonight, [Kohley] was the one who pushed us over.”
Woodstock entered the fourth quarter trailing by a point after Johnsburg (6-18 overall, 4-7 FVC Fox) used a 12-1 scoring surge at the start of the second half to build a six-point lead. The Skyhawks relied on perimeter shooting throughout the night, connecting on six 3-point field goals.
Collin Ridout hit four shots from beyond the arc – the last of which cut the Woodstock lead to 45-44 with 51 seconds remaining. Ridout led Johnsburg with 17 points to go with 13 from Steve Dixon.
But in the end, the Skyhawks’ long-distance efforts weren’t enough.
“I just thought we stood around on offense,” Johnsburg coach Mike Toussaint said. “When we get some momentum going and we push the ball. good things happen and we’re more aggressive.
“But I think their size beat us up. They beat us up inside and they beat us up on offensive rebounds and they’re shooters hit some shots.”
Nick Kubiak pushed Woodstock’s lead back to three before Kohley hit the late free throws to close out the win.
For a Woodstock team that is finally back to full health with the return of Ammirati and Kubiak, Baker feels like a gutsy win like Saturday’s could push the Streaks in the right direction.
“This was a nice night,” Baker said. “We’ve kind of taken our lumps the last few games and I think getting those guys back in the line-up really motivated us and pushed us.”