ST. CHARLES • A contest between unbeaten Parkway North and winless Francis Howell turned out to be more -- way more -- than what anyone expected in Thursday's nightcap at the four-game GAC/Suburban Shootout at the Family Arena.
It took some sharp free throw shooting down the stretch to earn Parkway North a 56-53 victory.
Phil Koening scored 20 points to lead Howell. Parkway North got 13 points from Dale McLin, 12 from Aaron Hines and 11 from Darrell Johnson.
Leading 52-50 with 28.9 seconds left, Parkway North hit four of six free throws to hold onto its lead. Koening's bank 3-pointer with four seconds to play made it 54-53 but Hines nailed two free throws to close the game.
"That was obviously huge," Parkway North coach Russell Vincent said. "We were able to get to the foul line when our jump shots weren't falling."
The win improved Parkway North to 6-0 while Howell dropped to 0-6.
At first, there seemed to be little suspense as Parkway North lit things up and dropped in bombs in the first eight minutes, surging to a 23-9 lead.
Dale McLin sank two 3-pointers and Aaron Hines made one as five players scored for North in the first eight minutes.
Francis Howell showed plenty of heart in the second quarter, closing the gap to 31-21 at one point. But McLin hit a couple buckets toward the end of the half and Parkway North led 35-23 at intermission.
The third quarter belonged to Howell as Koenig lit things up from the outside and was fearless going to the hoop, keying a 12-0 spurt. Koenig's drive and basket cut the lead to four points, and a basket inside by Eric Siebenshuh closed Parkway North's edge to two points, 35-33, with 3:32 to play in the quarter.
Howell packed in the paint and allowed Parkway North to fire away from the outside. After Michael Timmerman tied the game with under a minute left, Siebuenshuh connected on two free throws to give Howell a 37-35 lead with 1:06 left in the third quarter.
Howell battled back to tie the game 39-39 going into the fourth quarter.
"There is a lot of pride in that program," Parkway North's Vincent said. "They did a great job sagging and playing a defense that we normally don't see."