VALPARAISO | For some reason, shooting 3-pointers sometimes is easier than shooting free throws.
At least that was the case Friday night for Michigan City at Viking Gym, where the Wolves were 11-of-22 from beyond the arc in a 52-47 victory over Times No. 7 Valparaiso.
Michigan City (8-2, 2-0 Duneland Athletic Conference) broke off a 16-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters, fueled by a 3-point barrage led by reserve Brad Pawloski.
Pawloski, a 6-foot-2 junior, sparked the Wolves in the first half with three 3-pointers. He stayed hot after the break, hitting three more within 75 seconds late in the third quarter.
He finished 6-of-11 from long range for a game-high 18 points. Keenan Simmons, City's 6-7 senior Division I recruit, added 14 points, including seven in a row to start the fourth quarter that gave the Wolves a 47-30 lead.
"Brad Pawloski is one of our shooters and a guy who can take over a game with his shot," M.C. coach John Boyd said. "He just came out on fire and gave the team a lot of confidence.
"We got a collage of sets to get 3-point shooters open, and those kids know how to do it."
But the Wolves will be spending the next several days practicing free throws. They finished just 9-of-24 from the line, including a dismal 6-of-20 in the fourth quarter when Valpo rallied to within 48-43 with 1:06 remaining.
At one point the Wolves missed nine consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter, which worked according to Valpo coach Matt Thomas' wishes.
"Coach Thomas employed the 'Hack-a-Shaq' methods at about the three-minute mark, and it worked," Boyd said. "That's something I've never seen before from a John Boyd-coached team. We'll get back into the lab, and we'll fix that."
Valpo (7-5, 1-1 DAC) was led by senior Justin Osburn with 18 points, while sophomore Conner TenHove added 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Vikings struggled shooting (14-47 overall, 6-23 from 3-point range) and never got into a rhythm against the Wolves' relentless in-your-face defense. They trailed 22-17 at the break and got within 22-21 early in the third quarter before Pawloski broke loose.
"Pawloski just shot really well, and you have to credit him," Thomas said. "The last five games he's shot it a lot and has been cold, but the coach keeps running sets for him, so obviously he's a good shooter."
Thomas was hoping his team would have a chance late by starting to foul and send the Wolves to the line.
"I have a formula in my head," he said. "When the point differential gets to a certain point, you start fouling even if it seems ridiculous to do it.
"It's the right thing to do statistically. You have to do something. You can't just quit because things aren't going your way."