SOUTH CHINA — Tim Bonsant is the first to admit that he hates spending practice time on shooting free throws. Turns out, the old adage about needing to make your free throws to win games is true.

Erskine Academy made its efforts from the charity stripe count and kept visiting Lawrence from ever finding a rhythm, closing out a 53-49 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference boys basketball game on Thursday night by making 13 of 14 foul shots down the stretch. The Eagles earned their first home win of the season and improved to 4-4 on the year, while Lawrence fell to 1-6 despite a 27-point effort from senior guard Mason Cooper.

“That was the game,” Bonsant said of his team’s free-throw shooting. “We work on them every day. I think it’s kind of a waste of time in practice, but as you can see, it’s not a waste of time.”

Sophomore point guard Braden Soule led Erskine with 16 points, including 6-of-6 from the stripe in the final two and a half minutes. Jack Jowett added 12 points, one of three Eagles in double figures.

The most dominant influence on the game belonged to junior center Noah Bonsant, whose 10 points and 16 rebounds only told a fraction of the story. Bonsant blocked six shots, himself providing a fortress around the rim whenever Lawrence tried to penetrate the paint.

“We didn’t let them have many second chances, which was huge,” Noah Bonsant said. “I think defensive rebounding was the key.”

Cooper scored 16 of his 27 in the final quarter, but his efforts were matched at the other end as Erskine drained free throw after free throw to hold the Bulldogs at bay.

“It’s pretty much about stopping him,” Noah Bonsant said of Cooper. “Every time he touched the ball, we’d double him, because we’d rather have anybody else shoot the ball. We know that he makes almost everything.”

Neither team started the night on fire, as Lawrence plodded out to a 10-6 lead after one quarter. Things began to heat up in the second quarter when Soule and Lawrence’s Kobe Nadeau traded 3-pointers in the first 30 seconds of the frame. Bonsant followed an Andrew Browne three with an offensive rebound and a putback to tie the game at 16-16 with two minutes remaining until the half.

A Jowett layup in transition and another Browne trey — this one from the right corner in the final minute of the quarter — helped send the Eagles into the break with a 21-19 lead.

The third quarter played out much the way the first two did — with Lawrence trying desperately to heat up from the perimeter and Erskine content to run a patient half-court offense. The Bulldogs went just 6-for-22 from behind the 3-point arc on the night.

Tim Bonsant said it was difficult finding ways for his big center to get involved while Lawrence was working the ball around the outside.

“It is hard. I want him to protect the rim, and I want him to rebound,” the coach said. “When he goes out (high to defend), we’re not half as good defensively as we are with him blocking seven or eight shots a night down low. I don’t want to do that, so that’s why we usually play a match-up zone.”

A pair of Soule free throws with 1:26 remaining built Erskine’s biggest lead of the night, 46-37, and from there the clutch foul shooting put the game away.

After dropping its first two games to Medomak and Oceanside — the top teams in Class A North’s Heal point standings — the Eagles are starting to find their game.

“It was a rough start,” Noah Bonsant said. “We had a tough schedule at the beginning of the season, but hopefully we can get on a run now.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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