WALLA WALLA - Dayton didn't exactly take advantage of a plethora of chances at the free-throw line Friday night, but the Bulldogs doubled DeSales' output from the charity stripe and used that cushion to pull away to a 53-40 Southeast 2B District boys basketball victory in the Irish gym.
The victory leveled Dayton's season record at 9-9 and solidified the Bulldogs' hold on fourth place in the league standings heading into Saturday night's regular-season finale at Tri-Cities Prep. Dayton's postseason playoff possibilities were unclear, but a worst-case scenario would be game against either Tri-Cities Prep or Walla Walla Valley Academy either Monday or Tuesday to decide the fourth and final ticket to the district tournament.
DeSales, on the other hand, saw its season come to a conclusion Friday. The Irish wound up winless in league games (0-12) and 5-15 overall.
In Friday's finale, DeSales sent Dayton to the free-throw line 40 times - 32 of those chances coming in the fourth quarter. And although Dayton shot under 50 percent (16-for-40) from the line, it was a big advantage over DeSales' 8-for-11 free-throw shooting.
"For whatever reason, we just kept sending them to the line," Irish coach Allyn Griffin said. "I couldn't understand it. We played the same man-to-man pressure defense that we've played all season, and we've never had a game like this one. We did send them to the line (intentionally) maybe the last two-and-a-half minutes of the game."
Garrett Turner scored 16 points to lead a trio of Bulldogs in double figures. Colton Bickelhaupt added 14 points and Hayden Fullerton finished with 12.
Travis Haen led a balanced, albeit modest, Irish attack with eight points. Arturo Martinez scored six points, Luke Fazzari, Sean Williams and Paul Elmenhurst five points each, and Victor Mata added four points.
DeSales played without one of its four seniors, Tommy Gregg, who injured his foot in Tuesday's loss at Walla Walla Valley Academy. The other Irish seniors who played their final game were Mata, Williams and Bo Donnelly.
Friday's game was knotted at 21-21 at halftime, and Griffin cautioned his players at the break that the team that took charge in the third quarter would win.
"I told them that whoever won the first four minutes of the third quarter would have the upper hand," Griffin said. "And we came out cold and Dayton scored the first six points."
The Bulldogs led 35-31 after three periods and outscored the Irish 18-9 over the final eight minutes when they sank 12 of their 32 free throw attempts.
Griffin called his first year in charge of the Irish program "trying at times," but he said he was looking forward to a brighter future.
"I think they learned a lot," Griffin said of his players. "And I learned a lot. And I'm really excited about the future of the program. We have some good guys coming through from our junior varsity and C squads who have been together for a while.
"I am excited about seeing these caterpillars move through the cocoon to become butterflies."
Dayton 53, DeSales 40
DAYTON (53) - Frame 0 0-2 0, Norris 1 0-1 2, Bickelhaupt 2 9-18 14, Schlachter 2 0-0 4, Henderson 0 0-2 0, Fullerton 4 2-6 12, Turner 6 4-6 16, Sunderland 2 1-5 5. Totals 17 16-40 53.
DESALES (40) - Roach 0 0-0 0, Donnelly 1 0-0 3, Fazzari 2 0-0 5, Williams 2 0-0 5, Wales 0 2-2 2, Mata 2 0-0 4, Cordeiro 0 0-0 0, Haen 4 0-0 8, Zimmerman 0 0-0 0, Elmenhurst 2 0-0 5, Leahy 1 0-0 2, Martinez 0 6-9 6, Soloman 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 8-11 40.
Dayton 11 10 14 18 - 53
DeSales 9 12 10 9 - 40
3-point goals - Dayton (Bickelhaupt, Fullerton 2), DeSales (Donnelly, Fazzari, Williams, Elmenhurst). Total fouls - DeSales 28, Dayton 11. Fouled out - DeSales (Mata).