But the Spartans' fourth-quarter success on free throws coincided with late defensive stops, and Glenn Hills beat Grovetown 59-51 in the first round of the boys Region 3-AAA Tournament at Burke County.
"We're a young team that lost five, six games just at the free-throw line," McRae said. "I was kind of nervous, but they knocked them down."
After Xavier Crain converted a layup to make it 45-42 Grovetown, the Spartans (9-16) ended the contest on a 17-6 run to advance to Thursday's quarterfinal against North No. 1 seed Richmond Academy.
Besides some turnover issues for North No. 5 Grovetown (10-15), Glenn Hills also frequently set up shop at the charity stripe to get the lead.
The South's fourth seed sunk 23 foul shots, including 10 of its last 12 attempts. Leroy Graham and Mike Stephenson combined to make nine free throws in the fourth quarter. Stephenson finished with 17 points.
Crain added two more layups in the final period and Warriors teammate D.J. Tyson hit a 3-pointer to begin the fourth to bring the bench to its feet, but Grovetown couldn't hold its advantage. Crain had 13 points, with six coming in the fourth period.
In the first half, Glenn Hills held Grovetown scoreless during two runs but had only a two-point lead at halftime.
The Warriors put the first five points on the board before Glenn Hills answered by posting seven consecutive points.
Sanquan Nipper led the run with a steal and a slam, but Grovetown's Denzell Garrett hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter to help his team keep pace. Garrett ended with a team-best 17 points.
A little later, it looked like the Spartans would get a stranglehold on the game as they went on a 9-0 run.
However, Grovetown's Mike Chandler controlled the paint offensively during some of the second quarter when he scored six points in a hurry. On one bucket, he used a spin move to break free, and he later put down a slam as the Spartans led by only two points at the half.
Neither side seized command of the game until Glenn Hills slowly started to pull away thanks to defensive stands such as Nipper making a steal after Grovetown got an offensive rebound. Those stops and some solid free-throw shooting at the end helped clinch the win for Glenn Hills and end the season for the Warriors.
"For a second-year program, I thought we made great strides," Grovetown coach Bill Madigan said. "The kids gave it everything they got."