MILFORD, Del. -- LaKeith Blanks (right) looked more like a riverboat gambler than a basketball player on Sunday night at the War on the Shore Basketball Tournament.
With his team clinging to a 73-68 lead in overtime and just 16 ticks left on the clock, he did to many what might be considered unthinkable: he missed a free throw on purpose.
Not with his team behind five points, but ahead five points and with the clock on his Laurinburg Institute club's side in a classic tussle with the Winchendon School.
Call him a genius, but Blanks hustled toward the carom that his missed free throw created, collected the ball, and scored on a miraculous double clutch shot. And oh by the way, he was fouled on the play too, and this time, he played it safe and knocked the shot down to give the Tigers a 76-68 lead with :14 remaining.
And fittingly enough, that was the way the game ended, with Laurinburg winning the New Castle County Bracket at the inaugural War on the Shore with a 76-68 victory.
"Regis [Koundjia] had gotten two offensive rebounds off missed free throws earlier in the game, so I knew that if I missed, that they would try to box him out of bounds," Blanks explained. "So I made a gutsy play and shot the free throw so that I could get it back, and I got it back."
Blanks, an emotional 6-4 swingman who is headed to Texas A&M next fall, is a player who is known for taking risks and pushing the envelope instead of being conservative.
He was especially active in the extra session, scoring four of Laurinburg's first five points in the extra period to help the Tigers build a 64-59 lead with 2:58 to play.
Moments later with his team leading 66-65, he hoisted up an ill-advised shot instead of milking some clock, allowing the Green Wave a chance to knot the game at 66. And that's exactly what Winchendon did when Dominik Stefanac hit one of two free throws with 1:31 to play.
Koundjia gave Laurinburg the lead for good at 68-66 on a pair of free throws, and Blanks followed with four consecutive free throws as the lead swelled to 72-67 with 33 seconds left.
Dominique White countered with one of two free throws for Winchendon, setting the stage for Blanks' daring moment.
But as much as he plays on emotion, there was some sound reasoning behind Blanks' decision to intentionally miss the free throw.
"I heard the Winchendon coach tell his team to box out Regis hard," Blanks said. "So I figured I would have a clear path to the ball, and that's what happened."