By Tiffany L. Rehbein
It is all about whether you win. Only the losers say its not.
The Breakfast Club at Havre High knows that they meet at 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays for a reason.
In overtime play against Malta Saturday, Havre hit 3-of-6 free throws in the final four minutes. Free shots were the only points they tallied in the extra minutes.
Sophomore Jeri Matter hit one of those three that, well, mattered.
With :03 on the clock, Matter, who was playing against 14-year-olds last year, stepped to the line with nine teammates, four coaches and hundreds of Havre fans on her back.
A four-year-old Blue Pony fan in the stands was crossing her heart in the sign of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Malta was probably praying to another god.
Matter dropped the first free shot short off the front of the rim. Malta howled. Havre groaned.
A little more leg, one deep breath and Matter canned the second, lifting Havre to a 47-46 overtime win over previously undefeated Malta.
To become a member of the Breakfast Club, a Blue Pony must shoot under 67 percent cumulative from the free throw line.
Oh, being a member of this club is not honorary. Chances are, you could hit two-of-three shots. The question is, however, the one you could miss.
Hats off to senior Tiffany Shrauger and sophomore Amy Ranes. Shrauger had a 74 percent free throw average after six games, while Ranes had gone 2-for-2 from the line for 100 percent so far on the season.
Jeri Matter, on the other hand, was president of the Club with a basement 35 percent free throw average coming into the weekend.
At Browning Friday, Matter went 5-for-7 from the stripe and notched a season-high 18 points in the victory.
Matter went 1-for-4 in the overtime Saturday against Malta (3-for-6 overall).
Senior Erin Patera went 3-for-5 from the line in the contest. She connected on both ends of a one-and-one situation with 2:24 remaining in the overtime that lifted the Ponies to a 46-44 momentary lead.
The Breakfast Club meets at the Blue Pony Corral before school Wednesdays. They lace up their gym shoes, with their homecoming dresses or with their jeans from the Buckle in Great Falls, and they shoot free throws.
Because shots from the charity stripe are so important and because the time cannot be devoted as religiously in practice as it should, the girls commit 20 minutes before school, concentrating strictly on free throws.
Against Malta, Shrauger went 0-for-1, Alyssa Matter went 3-for-4 and Jayla McPherson went 1-for-2. As a team, Havre shot 55.6 percent.
Malta went 0-for-4 from the stripe in the overtime. The M-ettes went 2-for-9 overall for 22.2 percent. They lost by one point.
As I sat and watched Alyssa Matter scream by her opponents all night and Patera and Jeri Matter shoot over and around opponents, each girl proved she could score.
So, why is the free shot so difficult? Why was my heart pounding in my chest and why were my nerves so ragged when the blue and white stepped to the line?
Each Blue Pony could score with stout M-ette Leeann Pekovitch hanging onto her shorts, yet, when it was the Ponies and the basket, the free shot didnt really seem so free.
There was a cost to Havre when Matter missed the first shot. There was a cost to Malta when Matter sunk the second shot.
There seemed little freedom from outside domination when Matter was at the line. (Websters, 1990)
Just ask Malta about the domination when the buzzer cut through the screaming crowd after Matter canned the shot.
What a different game it would be if the MHSA changed the rules to a free point after a foul and eliminated the free shot altogether.
Only then could you me tell me free throws dont matter.