The Muscatine varsity girls led for the vast majority of their game against Davenport West on Friday night but still had to sink some key free throws down the stretch in order to put the game away.
The only time the Muskies didn't have the lead was when West tied it up with under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
But the Muscatine ladies managed to pull out a 33-27 win as Zoey Long and Macey Rogers combined for six fourth-quarter free throws that accounted for all but one Muskie point in the final frame.
Early on, Long came out on fire, hitting three of five first-quarter 3s. Then Alicia Garcia carried the scoring load for the Muskies throughout the second and third periods.
Garcia finished with a game-high 16 on 6-11 shooting and four free throws of her own, as well as eight rebounds and two blocks.
Besides canning those late shots from the charity stripe, Long's early onslaught from behind the arc proved really important as they were the only 3s made by either side for the entire game.
"We want (Long) to shoot and she started the game really well," Muscatine head coach Susan Orvis said after the game. "We were a little sluggish to start the game, certainly we want Zoey shooting the ball for us, and it was nice to see her hit a few to get us going."
The scoring breakdown ended up rather interesting. Outside of a select few, the shots were not falling on Friday night. Only four West Falcons scored (Nativionna Griffen-Blanks and Kaitlyn Powell each had 10, Kylee Devore had four, and Nevaeh Thomas three) and only three for Muscatine finished with points: Garcia, Long (12) and Rogers (5).
However, the hot start extinguished once the second quarter started and the Muskies just couldn't find space to pull away.
When West eventually did manage to tie it up late, coach Orvis was quick to take a timeout and go over the situation with her team.
"We just need(ed) to settle down," the Muscatine coach said, "I didn't want them to put too much pressure on themselves. We also made a defense change to give (West) a different look to try and keep them off the foul line."
That defensive change worked as well as Orvis had hoped because West's only two free throw attempts in the fourth came from Kaitlyn Powell well before the Muskies made their switch.
"We just managed those last couple minutes, we took care of the basketball and knocked down enough free throws and did just enough to close it out. Some nights when it's not going well and shots aren't falling ... you just have to hang together," Orvis said of the tense ending.
And hang together they did, as Muscatine improved to 7-12 for the season.