COLUMBIA — In the Hickman boys basketball team's past three games, the closing minutes have been the most important.
The Kewpies' district championship win against Rock Bridge was sealed up by crucial late free throws by junior guard Douglas Johnson. Their sectional victory over Washington went into overtime, with free throws from Johnson again proving important. And Saturday's quarterfinal win against Kickapoo came with help from a fourth-quarter comeback.
Class 5 semifinals
Hickman (26-2) vs. Rockhurst (24-5)
WHEN: 5 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
Hickman's Class 5 state semifinal game is against Rockhurst at 5 p.m. Friday at Mizzou Arena. If it too is decided late in the game, the Kewpies will be in a familiar situation. It would almost be like something out of practice.
On Monday, while the Kewpies rapidly shuffled through individual and team drills, team manager Daisy Crane sat in back corner of the gym, mostly concentrating on her copy of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and operating a scoreboard control panel placed on the floor.
Nearly every drill ended with a buzz from the scoreboard. The drills usually lasted three or four minutes, with assistant coach Cray Logan holding up the corresponding number of fingers at the end to let Crane know how many minutes to add to the clock.
The timing was more relaxed when the Kewpies were practicing free-throws or rebounding, but the practice got more situational as the team moved to five-on-five scrimmages.
For coach David Johnson, the running clock means the Kewpies have to know the situation, even if it is in practice. They might need to rush to get a shot up or drain the clock.
Johnson gave the starters one and a half seconds to make a play, but junior guard Mason Murray's heave to senior forward Cecil Williams was fumbled. The starters lost again, and Johnson was accordingly miffed.
He wasn't happy with the team's body language and was especially displeased with the lack of boxing out for rebounds.
"I guarantee you, with Rockhurst's (Kyle) Wolf, he'll go up there and dunk it on you," Johnson said, referring to the Hawklets' 6-foot-6 senior forward.
But whatever scenarios come up during Friday's game, it'll be tough for the Kewpies to say they weren't prepared.
"We go through so many different situations in practice, when we get into games, there isn't really something that coach hasn't gone over with us that we don't know what we should be doing in that situation," said sophomore guard Jimmy Whitt.