By RICK THORP
For The Intelligencer
MORRISTOWN - Many a basketball game has been decided by a free throw.
Tuesday night's Buckeye 8 tilt between Union Local and visiting Harrison Central was decided by 15 of them.
The Jets were 15 of 16 from the charity stripe during the fourth quarter and that advantage propelled Union Local to a 61-49 triumph at ''The Hangar.''
''They made 15 in a row at one point and that was the difference,'' Harrison Central head coach Justin Clifford lamented.
It truly was.
Union Local held a slim 40-38 lead after the third quarter, but once the Jets got into the bonus with 6:06 remaining in the game they took full advantage.
''Harrison Central played hard and we knew they'd play hard coming in,'' UL head coach Ben Porter said. ''We got a little fatigued in the fourth quarter, but for us to step up and knock those (free throws) down was a credit to the kids.
''We shoot 'em in practice, but they have to step up during the pressure of the game and make them and they all did a good job.''
Kaleb McDiffit, battling illness, was 6-for-6 in the fourth. Trenton Tipton was 4 of 4. Gavin Porter was 3 of 3.
When all was said and done, Union Local finished the night 22 of 25 from the line, while Huskies were 7 of 13.
Clifford didn't blame the referees or anyone else for the discrepancy.
''We kind of had the tempo where we wanted it for most of the game,'' he said. ''We had the lead for most of the game, or were close to it. But, at the end, they made the plays and we didn't.''
The Huskies (1-2) tied the score at 40-40 during the opening moments of the fourth. Dalton Rutter, who tied for team scoring honors with 13, got loose in the open court following a Jets' turnover and was fouled going to the basket. He made both free throws to knot the game.
McDiffit made his first two free throws of the period at the 6:06 mark to give UL a 42-40 lead.
Following a Tison Johnson miss for Harrison Central, Porter converted a 3-point play to stretch the Jets' lead to 45-40 with 5:39 remaining.
Austin Kowalski, who also had 13 for the Huskies, made a layup a short time later to make it a 45-42 game.
From there, the Jets made six straight free throws to virtually ice the game, while the Huskies struggled to hit a shot. Harrison Central was 2-for-11 from the field in the fourth, with all but three of those attempts coming from 3-point range.
''We're gonna be who we are,'' Clifford said. ''We played so hard, so it's hard to sit here and be mad at them or anything. The ball was going in early and the shots weren't going in in the fourth. That was the difference.''
Kowalski was held to two points in the fourth.
''We were trying to limit his touches,'' Porter said. ''He's a very good player and our kids were doing a good job of keeping him from getting the ball.
''He was moving all night and I think he wore us down a little bit. I think we did a good job of keeping the ball out of his hands for the most part.''
Union Local (2-0) also had two players score 13 to lead the team - Tipton and Porter. McDiffit and big man Colton McKivitz each added 10.