"If we make the free throws during the course of the game, or even half of them, we're not in a situation where we're having to do some other stuff, it just screws up the whole thing for us," said Hoover Coach Jack Van Pattern, whose team went seven for 20 from the free-throw line for the game. "If you get the foul shots, then it's as good as a bucket."
The Tornadoes, who got 15 points from Aden Ziraki and 14 from Artin Mirzakhanyan, led by as many as seven points several times in the third period and took a 46-41 lead on a Mirzakhanyan basket early in the fourth.
But from there, things began to fall apart offensively, as the Tornadoes went on to miss their next 10 attempts from the field and go one for four from the foul line the rest of the way.
But La Salle wasn't exactly lighting it up either and, with a minute to go, the game was still well within the Tornadoes' reach, down 49-47.
The Lancers' Ian Schuler (14 points) converted on a drive to push the lead to four and Darryl Oliver came up with a steal in the backcourt on the very next play, got fouled and put La Salle up, 52-47, after hitting one of two free throws.
Hoover went on to commit turnovers on its next two possessions to close out the game.
"For a team like us, we've got to make foul shots and layups and not turn the ball over," Van Patten said. "Even then, as poorly as we were playing, we had a chance, but we threw the ball right to them."
After getting out to a 7-2 lead early, Hoover (3-7) led for most of the game, although La Salle was able to take a 27-24 lead into the half.
The Lancers (9-4) then led, 29-26, early in the third quarter before Ziraki went on a tear, scoring 11 points in the period.
First, Ziraki hit a three to tie it at 30, and then hit a layup for the lead with 5:22 left. Ziraki put Hoover up, 39-32, with 3:46 left in the third on a fast break off a La Salle three-point miss.
Arbi Abelian had 12 rebounds for Hoover.