CLINTON — All the DeWitt Sabers wanted to talk about after their 56-43 win over Maquoketa on Thursday was defense, and rightfully so.
It was a close game for three-plus quarters as each team seemed to trade baskets or make a stop in succession.
There was one play in particular that gave the Sabers rapid momentum, and it came in the fourth quarter when Lucas Daniels made a second-chance basket after a missed free throw.
“I knew (the free throw) was short right off the bat,” Daniels said. “We were trying to separate ourselves at that moment, and it gave us a four-point game, so I think it was the turning point.”
Daniels scored nine points for the Sabers, while their leading scorer was Christian Wright with 14 points, thanks to four field goals and 5-for-6 shooting from the free-throw line.
Kyle Bauer scored 13 points while McClain Steffens posted 11 points in the win.
DeWitt’s paint game was a little bleak in the first half, but the Sabers knew that’s where they had to get most of their points in order to clinch the title of Class 3A-District 9.
“Attacking the rim always ends up being a good thing,” Steffens said. “We’re a pretty good free-throw shooting team, so that’s what we like to do.”
DeWitt coach Jeff Frick said getting to the basket was the team’s biggest adjustment at halftime.
“That was the key to get it inside more,” Frick said. “We were settling for too many outside jump shots.”
DeWitt opened the second half on a 6-1 run that lasted nearly half of the third quarter. While the Sabers were figuring out that the paint was open, the Cardinals failed to get a field goal and turn the ball over four times in that stretch. Maquoketa did have a one-point lead at halftime, however.