SF Preps Basketball: Stuart Hall outlasts Palo Alto behind free throw shooting of Miles Amos

BURLINGAME — Over the past two seasons, Stuart Hall guard Miles Amos has been far from an ace shooter. His athleticism, bounce and strength have shown promise, but the ability to drive the lane and draw contact didn’t amount to much, since he shot just 65-percent from the free throw line.

So, one week after the conclusion of Amos’s junior season, he hit the weights every day until the end of school, and then got back into the gym. Every day over the course of the summer, he would have two or three on-floor workouts per day.

“I was re-structuring my whole shot,” Amos said. “Started at the bottom, simple shooting mechanics — legs, toes, we worked our way up — and we slowly stepped out from the block to the free throw line to the 3-point line. It was a slow progression.”

After watching what was a double-digit lead over Palo Alto for much of Thursday’s Lions Club Invitational semifinal evaporate in the second half, and with forward Nigel Burris on the bench with an injury for the final 13:33, the Knights put the game in Amos’s hands. He headed to the line five times in the fourth quarter, going 8-for-10 as part of a 27-point night to secure a 47-42 win.

“Nigel’s a heck of a player, so I was real confident, but we just didn’t shoot the ball well tonight,” said head coach Charles Johnson, whose team went just 12-of-43 (27.9 percent) on the night. “I don’t think either team played particularly well. I was glad we came out on top.”

The Knights (7-1) got a career game from Amos, who finished 6-of-14 from the field and 14-of-16 at the line, scoring a game-high 27 and pulling down a season-high 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the year. He’s shown the athleticism and the tools to be able to dominate before, but he’d never truly taken over a game until Thursday. That was due, he said, to his work this offseason.

He’d shoot at War Memorial Gym in Daly City, or Joseph Lee Rec Center. Or, he’d head down to Milbrae, where, at Unlimited Potential, he worked with shooting coaches Packie Turner and Larisa Nakasone, who previously worked with Aaron Gordon, Jabari Bird and Patrick McCaw.

“Larisa restructured my complete shot,” he said. “We’re still working on it. She saw one or two jumpers, and she said, ‘I see what’s wrong. Let’s start here.’ She brought out a chair and had me sit on a chair and get up just to work on the muscles I’m supposed to work.”

He shortened up his free throw stroke, added a deep breath, and began to jump forward more and extend his wrist.

“My free throws took a yearlong break,” Amos said. “My sophomore year, I would get 18 or 21 a game, and last year, it was 50, 60 percent. I was just tired of missing my free throws. This is my money. If I’m going to attack the basket and get fouled, I’ve got to knock these down. That was the determination the whole offseason.”

It paid off in the fourth quarter, when Amos scored 10 points in a nip-and-tuck stanza that saw Stuart Hall outscore the Vikings just 17-16. That came after a listless third quarter in which the Knights scored just four points, and only two of those came in the final 5:33, after Burris went down with a right ankle injury suffered while colliding with a Palo Alto player during a drive to the basket.

With both Burris and guard Spencer O’Brien-Steele sidelined with injuries, the offense which was able to find shots in the corners and on the baseline in the first half sputtered. The Knights went just 3-of-17 from the floor and 0-for-9 from three in the second half, and Alex Byrd — who hit a pair of 3-pointers before halftime — couldn’t get anything to fall. In the meantime, Palo Alto went 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) from the floor, after a 7-for-30 first half.

The Stuart Hall offense, by necessity, went through Amos.

“There’s some truth to that,” Johnson said. “Then, we settled. We also ran some offense and couldn’t throw it in the ocean, either. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let your best guy do the things he does. He got to the line and he willed us into that win. I’ve got to give him a lot of credit.”

After a stultifying 8-4 third quarter in favor of the Vikings, and with the 3 ball not falling, Amos drove the ball six times in the fourth quarter, finishing with a lay-up and taking five fouls. After rebounding a missed lay-up by Anthony Yu (4-of-13, 9 points) with 19.3 seconds left and Stuart Hall up by just five, Amos took Conner Lusk’s fourth foul. In the double bonus, he hit both of his free throws. Four more free throws by Byrd — who finished with 15 points — sealed the game.

“The offense was, attack the mismatches we’ve got and run our offense,” Amos said. “We were able to still run our offense, and take advantage of the mismatches, and we were able to get the lead. Holding them off was the main part.”

The Knights will face off with the Menlo School at 8 p.m. on Friday in the tournament final.

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