Carlyle basketball coach Andy Palmer may have nightmares about his team's free-throw shooting Monday.
However, the Indians still took a big step toward a share of the Cahokia Conference title with a 44-43 victory over the Central Cougars.
"If we make our free throws it's a lot easier win than what we got," said Palmer, whose team was just 14-of-31 from the foul line. "I'm not sure how we still won."
Central sophomore Logan Kohrmann missed a 12-footer at the end trying for the game-winner as the Carlyle defense held on.
Carlyle (19-8 overall, 7-2 in league play) has a chance to tie Central (20-7, 8-2) for the conference title if the Indians knock off last-place Red Bud on Friday.
Freeburg (13-10, 6-2) also has a chance to create a three-way tie with two league games remaining.
Carlyle senior Matt Hilmes led the way with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
"He really rebounded well tonight and got quite a few offensive rebounds and stick-backs," said Palmer, whose team also got a big shot of momentum when Hilmes drained a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to slow down Central's comeback bid. "That was probably the biggest shot of the night."
Carlyle led 26-16 at halftime, only to watch Central fly back into the game with a 15-5 run in the third quarter to tie it at 31 heading into the final eight minutes.
Carlyle's Logan Zachry added eight points and had only two turnovers despite being guarded by Central's Jacob Timmermann.
Timmermann led the Cougars with 21 points.
Hilmes was 6-of-14 at the foul line in an uncharacteristic performance, according to Palmer. Hilmes had hit 65.5 percent of his free throws (116-of-177) before Monday, but the Indians have struggled from the line at times.
"It's been a problem for us all season long," Palmer said. "We'd been shooting them better and I thought we were through with that, but tonight it reared it's ugly head again. I thought we rebounded well and went to the offensive boards pretty well. Matt stepped up and made big plays for us and Logan Zachry played well, too."