The free-throw line was the last place St. Charles East wanted to send Keith Hayes Tuesday night.
The Glenbard West sophomore guard, a transfer from Little Rock, Ark., scored 17 of his game-high 30 points via free throws to lift the Hilltoppers past St. Charles East 63-56 in the schools nonconference boys basketball game in Glen Ellyn.
Hayes hit 10 consecutive free throws over the last two minutes to seal the win for Glenbard West.
We shoot about 100 free throws (during a typical practice), Hayes said. We wanted to win real bad. On offense we just attacked, and (St. Charles East) kept fouling. I was just trying to get my team a win.
Glenbard West (9-4) trailed 44-36 entering the fourth quarter, but Hayes 3-point play on the opening possession proved to auger well; the Hilltoppers would ultimately erupt for 27 points over the last eight minutes.
Nathan Marcus and Ben Kane stretched the Hilltoppers run to 9 points over a three-possession span with back-to-back 3-pointers.
The game was soon tied, for the last time at 46-46, on Hayes split free throws.
Corey Davis 3-point play gave Glenbard West the lead for good, and Hayes flawless shooting from the free-throw line ensured that St. Charles East would never come closer than 2 points the remainder of the game.
The Saints, still adjusting to life without Purdue-bound star Kendall Stephens, who is lost for the season with a shoulder injury, had turnovers as the central issue in the aftermath of the loss.
We had zero value for the basketball tonight, St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods said. Incredibly poor decisions and a lack of execution (cost us dearly). Were not in-sync yet (without Stephens).
St. Charles East (10-5) did have reasons for optimism.
Dom Aducci, looking to score more in backcourt mate Stephens absence, not only did so with a team-high 19 points but also was very steady in running the offense.
AJ Washington and David Mason were also in double figures for the Saints with 13 and 10, respectively.
But the Hilltoppers efficiency at the free-throw line certainly underscored the maxim that games are won and lost from 15 feet away.
Scoring their final 15 points, highlighted by Hayes 10 straight, from the free-throw line, the Hilltoppers overcame a sluggish opening start in which they scored only 7 points in the first quarter.
We picked up the defensive intensity, and then the offense came together, Hayes said.
I thought our guys did a great job of getting Keith the ball (in the closing minutes), Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder said. We were having trouble with their zone.
Davis and Nathan scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Hilltoppers.