The Bettendorf Bulldogs have done just about everything well this season except shoot free throws.
And Tuesday night they even did that, at least when the game was on the line.
D.J. Carton and JMichael Young combined to knock down five foul shots in the final 31 seconds and the Bulldogs needed them to hold off a comeback effort by Davenport Assumption and claim a 58-51 victory in a battle of ninth-ranked teams at Assumption.
Bettendorf, ranked ninth in Iowa Class 4A, retained possession of first place in the Mississippi Athletic Conference at 6-0, 7-2 overall, while Assumption, No. 9 in 3A, dropped to 6-4, 3-3.
“It’s pretty big road win,’’ Young said. “It’s never easy playing here so it was a pretty good momentum booster for us.’’
The Bulldogs had a 15-point lead in the third quarter but had to hold on as the Knights scored nearly half their points in the final period.
Ultimately, Assumption coach Matt Fitzpatrick figured the Bulldogs’ physicality was just too much for his young team to overcome.
“They’re as physically imposing a high school basketball team as I think you’ll find in the country,’’ Fitzpatrick said. “They’re big and athletic, and they’re really, really hard to score on.’’
The Knights found that out the hard way when they managed just four field goals in the middle two quarters. A 13-1 Bettendorf scoring run that included eight points by Young made it 39-24 late in the third quarter and it looked as though a rout was developing.
But Assumption, led by Ray Thrapp and Trenton Wallace, gradually chopped down the deficit and got to within 53-51 on Landon Dugan’s drive to the hoop with a minute, 25 seconds remaining.
Bettendorf missed a shot at the other end, giving the Knights a chance to take the lead, but Wallace was called for traveling with 42.6 seconds to go.
Carton then made two free throws with 31.3 seconds left, Young added one with 17.9 seconds on the clock and Carton drained two more with a second remaining.
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Carton led the Bulldogs with 16 points and Young added 14.
Young, playing only his fifth game since returning from a wrist injury, also played a major role in holding down Assumption’s leading scorer, Trent Fitzpatrick, whose only field goal of the game came in the middle of his team’s 25-point fourth quarter explosion.
“We put a guy on him, J Mike, who has similar quickness and speed but who also has great length and that bothered him,’’ Bettendorf coach Curtis Clark said. “I thought (Young) did a great job of not letting him get an angle on him at the rim and always kept his hands up and made him shoot over him. I thought that did frustrate him.’’
The Bulldogs also contained Assumption’s 6-foot-11 Liam Robbins in the final three quarters. Robbins had a good first quarter but Bettendorf began fronting him after that and he had only one rebound and no field goals from that point on.
Thrapp, averaging just 5.6 points per game coming in, led Assumption with 17 points with Wallace adding 13.
“Ray plays football so he’s really starting to get his basketball legs back …’’ Fitzpatrick said. “This is really what we expected of Ray, the way he played tonight.’’