ALGONA | Junior Micah Lambert knew what tonight was going to come down to.
He was the last one to finish the warmup, shooting one last shot from the line before the game started.
“Before the game, I shot a lot of free throws in warmups,” Lambert said. “I knew that was something that was going to be needed tonight and obviously, it was, but it’s about getting in a rhythm and staying in that rhythm.”
That’s where Forest City defeated Bishop Garrigan on Tuesday night, 59-44.
In the battle for the TIC West, both teams stormed the court, running over each other to take their quick shots.
Eventually, each fell into a rhythm to start making them.
Senior Sam Snyder kicked things off for the Indians slamming a dunk, dangling from the rim for a few seconds just to fire up the crowd.
He’d drive down for another layup, then find himself sprinting back after an Indians steal, receiving a lobbed pass for an easy two.
Cap that off with 3-pointers from Lambert and senior Ryan Theel and the Indians held a 14-7 lead after the first quarter.
But freshman Angelo Winkel and sophomore Cade Winkel found their groove in the second, going on an 11-7 run for the Golden Bears to bring the score within one 21-20 at half. The two would finish the game with 14 points each.
What followed was what Forest City knows best: defense.
“You’ve got to credit them, they’re the best defense in the conference and we knew that,” Garrigan head coach Harry Condoleon said. “Hats off to them for playing that defense in the second half and making their free throws down the stretch. I don’t think they missed one.”
Garrigan sophomore John Joyce was looking for his first basket in the third, lobbing for a 3 from the outside. But Lambert jumped and caught the ball in mid-air driving to the basket for a layup, unopposed.
The Indians forced turnovers left and right, limiting the Golden Bears to a season-low of 44 points, with their second-lowest being the 81-54 loss to GHV.
Lambert finished with a team-high 18 points, shooting 9 of 12 from the line. Senior Ryan Theel had 14 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 performance from the line. Senior Chris Jermeland had seven points, but also shot a perfect 5 for 5 from the line. Snyder finished with nine points.
“We haven’t been known as the greatest free throw-shooting team, but those guys were being consistent and we were trying to get them the ball down the stretch,” Forest City head coach Dan Rosacker said. “I thought you saw a veteran team take the reins.”
The win ties Forest City with GHV for the conference lead, the Indians will need to win their last game on Friday against Lake Mills to stay in contention.
Now that the conference is within reach, the team has high hopes that the win will drive them through the postseason.
“This has been a long time coming,” Snyder said.