COMMERCE - Josh Schertz and his Welch Wildcats were tired of losing close games - so they went out and won a close one.
The Cats squandered a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter but managed to hang on for a 34-28 victory in a Lucky 7 Conference game here Tuesday night.
“We had a chance,” Commerce coach Tom Fenderson. “We cut it to four (30-26), but missed a couple easy little inside shots or the game could have been tied. We missed too many easy shots and too many free throws. They helped us out - they missed a lot of free throws, too.”
Welch was 3-of-10 at the line in the fourth quarter, when Commerce held a 17-7 advantage.
The Wildcats converted on only 10 of 36 trips to the free throw line on the night.
“ I am sick and tired of our free throws - I am sick and tired of it,” Welch coach Josh Schertz said. “We need to pick it up.”
The Wildcats are shooting only 46 percent at the line on the season.
“On the bright side, our defense was great,” Schertz said. “They finished with 28 points and we gave them about eight points on turnovers in the fourth quarter. That says a lot about our defense.”
Commerce managed only one point in the first quarter, had nine at intermission and didn't get into double figures until Luis Arizpe hit the front end of a two-shot foul with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
A jumper by Levi Smith staked Welch to its biggest lead of the night, 28-11 heading into the final stanza.
A follow shot by Zach Barnes was countered by a baseline drive from Jake Fansler, leaving the Wildcats with a 30-13 edge with 5:18 remaining.
A 3-point goal by Jordan Kelly jump-started the Tigers. They used a 13-0 run to get the deficit back down to 30-26 with 2:40, but Welch regained control with a mini-spurt of its own.
Fansler scored from inside, then Gabe Moore and Bullard each hit a free throw to push the lead back to 34-26 with 1:10 left.
The Tigers last points came with 21.9 seconds left, but a free throw by Joey Powers with 12.8 ticks left created the final margin.
“They work hard, but we just keep making the same mistakes,” Fenderson said. “We didn't play very aggressive on offense. We hung our head down a little in the third quarter when we were down by 17 or 18 points. I told them we could score 20 or 30 in the fourth quarter.”
Powers had 11 points and Fansler added nine for Welch.
“That is the best intensity I have seen out of the boys all year,” Schertz said. “They were fired up. They were tired of losing. I am tired of losing the close ones.”
Kelly and Matt Cook were the leading scorers for Commerce, each netting five points.
Both Commerce and Welch begin play in the Northeastern A&M High School Basketball Tournament Thursday.
The Tigers face Blue Ridge Christian at 3 p.m. at Miami High School while Welch returns here to battles Tulsa Wright Christian at 4:30 p.m.
Welch 5 12 11 7 - 35
Commerce 1 8 2 17 - 28
Welch - Powers 11, Fansler 9, Moore 5, Gower 3, Smith 3, Bullard 2, Sandusky 2.
Commerce - Kelly 6, Cook 6, Barnes 5, Arizpe 4, Wade 3, Brock 2, Williams 2.
3-point goals - Powers 1, Kelly 2.