DIXON – Every day at basketball practice, each Dixon Duke must make 10 free throws in a row before his day is done.
Maybe Cal Jarrett can get out of that requirement next week.
The Dixon junior nailed 12 consecutive free throws in the second half Friday night, helping the Dukes hold off a late LaSalle-Peru rally in a 63-55 NIB-12 West victory at Lancaster Gym.
"That's why we have them make all those free throws in practice," Dixon coach Jason Mead said. "It really paid off for us tonight."
Dixon (18-4, 6-1) grabbed an early lead, then hung on when the Cavaliers (9-12, 2-5) made a last-ditch effort down the stretch.
After the Dukes took their biggest lead at 54-41, LaSalle-Peru hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, then Noah Lamboley was fouled on a layup and converted the three-point play. Lamboley got another layup the next trip down, then buried a deep 3 from the left wing to get the Cavs within 61-55 with 26.2 seconds left.
But Dixon held them at bay from the foul line, as Jarrett and Laron Carr made nine of 10 free throws during that stretch to keep the lead.
"I was proud of our effort and our defense, especially in the fourth quarter," LP coach Jim Cherveny said. "But Dixon made some big plays, and hit a lot of free throws at the end, and they were just the better team tonight."
The game started quickly, as Dixon jumped out to a 7-0 lead thanks to a pair of easy Kyle LeBlanc layups and Isaiah Roby's turnaround jumper. But the Cavs found their footing, and took an 8-7 lead after three post buckets from Kaleb Jakse and a jumper from Luke Dresbach.
That's when Dixon took the lead for good. Roby's basket on a pretty post-to-post feed from LeBlanc was followed by a Jarrett jumper, then after baskets by Roby and Laron Carr, Jarrett finished off a three-point play for a 19-10 lead in the final minute of the first quarter.
The Cavaliers got back within four points at 21-17 midway through the second period, but Carr's 3 on a kick-out pass from Roby ignited a 10-4 run that was halted only when Lamboley beat the clock on a coast-to-coast layup as the half expired.
"It was pretty important for us to get that lead, because that's a team that can get hot and come back on you," LeBlanc said. "We ran our lanes, got into the right spots on offense, and got layups and some open shots out of it."
Jarrett's 3 out of the locker room pushed the Dixon lead to 34-23, then the Dukes went back up 11 a few minutes later after a Carr 3 and Jarrett's two free throws on a technical foul on Cherveny.
The Cavs got no closer than seven until the final surge, and just when it looked like they might take the momentum and run midway through the fourth quarter, Carr nailed a 3 off a Roby assist, then Jarrett hit two more free throws to essentially put the game out of reach.
Playing without an ill Matt Coffey, the Dukes relied on role players Nate Gascoigne, Riley Mehrens, and Michael Conley to do the little things that make all the difference … and the trio did its job. Gascoigne had a basket and a steal, Mehrens had five rebounds and a steal, and Conley nailed a second-quarter 3 to put Dixon up 10 (31-21) in the final minute before halftime.
"Last year, we had trouble finding our roles, and we'd just give away games that we could have won," Roby said. "This year, a big part of what we've been able to do is because we all know our roles, we all accept them, and we all feel comfortable in them.
"We're not playing outside our roles, not trying to do too much individually, and it feels good to finish games like this instead of letting other teams come back and take them away from us."
Jarrett finished with 20 points, including a 13-for-13 performance at the free-throw line, and also had eight rebounds. Carr scored 18 points and dished four assists, and Roby stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block. LeBlanc chipped in 11 points, hitting five of his six shots.
Lamboley poured in a game-high 26 points for LaSalle-Peru, while Eric Milaicki added five points, six rebounds and seven assists. Jakse finished with 14 points and five boards.
The teams combined for just 23 turnovers – 10 for Dixon, 13 for LP – and both shot better than 40 percent from the field and from 3-point range. The Dukes' 21-9 scoring edge at the foul line made all the difference.
"We fought through some adversity this week, with Matt out because of illness and some guys banged up and missing some practice time," Mead said. "I'm so proud how we finished this game, stayed aggressive and patient and smart against a dangerous team. Everybody on this team tonight did what they had to do to get us this win, and that's what you love to see as a coach."
So that means Jarrett can take a day off next week from his free-throw requirement, right?
"Heck no," Mead said with a smile. "The slate is wiped clean every night."
"I didn't think so," Jarrett said with a laugh, "but that's how it should be. It's just great to see everybody step up to the line, step onto the court, with confidence and give us great effort and great minutes and another great team win."
Dixon 63, LaSalle-Peru 55
Star of the game: Cal Jarrett, Dixon, 20 points, 13-for-13 FTs, 8 rebounds
Key performers: Laron Carr, Dixon, 18 points, 4 assists; Isaiah Roby, Dixon, 9 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals; Noah Lamboley, LP, 26 points, 18 in the 2nd half; Eric Milaicki, LP, 5 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists
Up next: Dixon at Streator, 6 p.m. Saturday