MOUNDSVILLE - It took fewer than 5 seconds for Mike Granato's gamble to backfire.
Dogged by foul trouble for most of the game against John Marshall on Thursday night, Weir big man Harley Mills picked up his fourth foul with a little more than 5:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Granato, trying to think big picture, left Mills in, figuring Mills might well get used to playing in heavy foul trouble in the postseason. Mills, still miffed from what he thought was an unfair call on the offensive end, was whistled for his fifth 4 seconds later, trying to trap a guard 23 feet from the basket.
Weir’s Mike Drizake, right, moves up the floor as John Marshall’s Aaron Fonner gives chase.
At the time, the Red Riders trailed 47-46. They wound up losing 63-52.
''It was a difficult decision,'' said Granato, who'd been using Mills almost exclusively on offense in the second half to circumvent the foul trouble. ''We made the decision on the bench to keep him in because when he went out early in the third quarter, I thought it affected us.
''He got frustrated and went out and tried to trap down there. That's just how it goes.''
Well, not always.
Monarchs coach Bill Storm was doing the same thing with his own big guy, Justin Wade. Wade, who dominated early with 18 first-half points, picked us his third foul on the first offensive set of the third quarter. He played nearly the entire second half on the offensive end and was asked to leave only when it was time for some of the younger guys to come in and close it out. He took a game-best 27 points with him, too.
Like so many of Weir's games this season, it was close throughout. The Red Riders' largest lead was nine on a 3-pointer by Dylan Cassiadoro with 3:42 left in the first half. The Monarchs battled back to take a one-point lead, 27-26, at halftime and the teams essentially traded baskets the entire third quarter and the first 3 minutes of the fourth until Mills took a seat. From that point, JM outscored Weir 16-6 the rest of the way.
Weir's foul trouble allowed the Monarchs to whittle away at their deficit. The Monarchs' free-throw shooting nearly prevented it.
''The reality was we lost the lead when we had three starters sitting on the bench,'' Granato said. ''That was the determining factor for a lot of things.''
Added Storm: ''The free-throw line almost killed us, like it has done all year,''
John Marshall was 19 of 33 from the line, which is five percentage points better than its season average.
Free? Not hardly.
''We almost blew it,'' Storm said.
Evan Woodland came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers and lead the Red Riders in scoring with 15 points. Mills, who had eight points in third quarter, finished with 11. Mike Drizake, who hit a trio of 3-pointers, added 14 points.
Evan Magers hit four 3-pointers - three in third quarter when JM was making its charge - and wound up with 12 points.