A battle between the two teams atop the standings in the Inland Empire Athletic Conference came down to one thing: free throws.
San Bernardino Valley made 34 of 46 opportunities from the free throw line, overcoming a three-point first half deficit to beat Copper Mountain College 83-71 in a physical affair Wednesday night inside the SBVC Athletics Complex.
In the end, the Wolverines had 26 more free throw attempts in the game, as the Fighting Cacti got in foul trouble early. Two of Copper Mountain's starters fouled out, with another two players from the team ending the game with four fouls, as both teams played a tight game that was closely called by officials.
SBVC got off to an early advantage, leading 12-5 about five minutes into the game, but the Fighting Cacti clamped down on defense and pulled ahead. Copper Mountain led by as many as six in the first half, before settling for a 39-36 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Wolverines focused on attacking the basket, which led to trips to the free throw line. It slowly turned the tide in the Wolverines' favor. SBVC retook the lead early in the half, then was able to hold off any charges from Copper Mountain.
Dominique Daniels led the way for the Wolverines, scoring a game-high 34 points, including converting 15 of 16 attempts from the free throw line. Brandon Thompson added 15 and Armon Muldrew had 10 as the only three SBVC players to finish in double figures.
Travion Jackson led Copper Mountain with 17 points. Teammates Mikah Blackwood and Tyler Hudson scored 14 and 12 respectively before fouling out.
The two teams will meet again Monday, Feb. 7, in a game that was originally scheduled for Jan. 8.