In the game of basketball, sometimes it isn’t three-pointers or fast breaks that win games. Sometimes, it’s simple free throws that make the difference.

That was the case Monday night for the Tuloso-Midway Cherokees. The Tuloso-Midway girls spent the night trying to fight off a determined Laredo Nixon squad in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs, and free throws eventually pushed them over the top for a 44-31 victory.

With the Lady Mustangs on their heels, the Cherokees sank 11 of 16 free throw attempts to secure the win.

Tuloso-Midway moves on to the area round of the playoffs.

Nixon gave the Cherokees fits early in the game. However, after chasing the Mustangs through the first quarter in a man-to-man defense, Tuloso-Midway moved to a zone defense. That allowed them to take advantage of turnovers. Tuloso-Midway pulled ahead by three by halftime. They maintained their advantage and then pulled away in the fourth.

“We wore ourselves out in the first half because we were playing them man-to-man and we were playing right into what they were doing,” Tuloso-Midway coach Hector Serna said. “We decided we’d switch to a zone defense and try to rest our legs a little bit, and that’s just what we did.

“That last two minutes or minute, thirty, we actually played like we were supposed to the entire game. We played well and stepped it up there in the end.”

Lexi Ruiz led the Cherokees in scoring with 16 points. Lauren Turner added 11.

“Free throws really made a difference for us there at the end,” Serna said. “They can win you a game or they can lose you a game. Tonight, free throws helped us pull this game out.”