WL gets assist from Twin Lakes student section
February 2, 2012West Lafayette Jr.-Sr. High School
MONTICELLO -- The boos began when Drake Danford was introduced at the Tee Pee on Tuesday night.
The chants of "traitor" echoed from the Twin Lakes student section whenever the one-time Indian touched the ball in the opening minutes for West Lafayette.
But with the boos still rolling with the game in the balance, the Red Devils senior faced a different distraction at the free throw line.
"I looked down for the nail hole -- you know how (free throw lines) have that in the middle -- and they didn't have that," Danford said. "... My mind was elsewhere once I realized they didn't have that nail hole. After that, I relaxed and just knocked them down."
Danford eventually centered himself and made five free throws in the final 10.7 seconds -- with a little help from a technical foul caused by the Indians' student section -- to lift West Lafayette to a 63-61 Hoosier Conference victory at Twin Lakes.
Danford, who transferred from Twin Lakes to West Lafayette after his sophomore year, scored a game-high 23 points in his first game back in his former home gym. The Red Devils (10-3, 3-1 Hoosier Conference), who trailed by 11 late in the first half, have now won nine straight against Twin Lakes (9-4, 2-2).
A put-back basket by Twin Lakes sophomore Cameron Bennington with 1:15 left tied the game at 58-58. The Red Devils brought the ball up and let the clock run to 25.6 left before calling a timeout.
Danford took the ball to the lane after the inbounds and was fouled, but missed the free throw. However, continuing a game-long trend, West Lafayette's Brian Bangs grabbed the offensive rebound and got the ball back to Danford, who again was fouled.
Before Danford could shoot his free throws, a member of the Twin Lakes student section threw a cup of ice onto the playing floor. The officials assessed a technical foul against the Indians.
"We love how intense our (fans) get and how fired up they like to be," said Bennington, who finished with 15 points and three assists. "But what happened tonight was way over the line. I want to apologize to the West Side fans and West Side players and stuff, because that's out of line. We can't be doing that.
"In the end, if we just box out and get the rebound, we're not in that situation."
Danford missed the first free throw but made the next three to give West Lafayette its biggest lead since late in the first quarter. The Red Devils maintained possession, and Danford was fouled with 9 seconds left and made both to give West Side a 63-58 lead.
Brian Moore's 3 at the buzzer capped a 19-point night but only left everyone wondering what might have been had a fan not intervened.
"Even if we had lost, I would have rather it ended differently than that," WL coach Dave Wood said.
Twin Lakes shot at a much higher percentage from the field (53.7-40.4), but West Lafayette negated that deficit with a 17-6 edge in offensive rebounds. Bangs grabbed nine rebounds and Caleb Shinn scored on three put-back baskets during a 10-point first quarter.
Danford and Sean Busch hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter, and neither team led by more than 2 again until Danford's free throws.