That paid off Friday night, with the Maroons plucking a plum road victory at a packed John Thiel Gymnasium.
Fouled on a late breakaway attempt, Derrick Stabler hit a game-winning free throw with 1.7 seconds showing to allow Moline to pull off a 57-56 upset of title-contending Galesburg in Western Big 6 Conference boys' basketball action.
Stabler's heroics followed a wild Silver Streaks comeback in the final 77 seconds, with the hosts erasing an 11-point deficit by forcing six straight turnovers to tie the contest on a steal-and-putback by Travon Diggins with six ticks remaining.
"They came back at us real fast and we didn't know what hit us,'' Stabler said. "But as soon as they tied it up, I took off down the floor and Drew (Owens) did a great job of finding me (with the inbounds pass).
"We practice that after a make. I release down the floor because I have some speed and Drew can make a perfect pass every time.''
Galesburg star Grant Gibson recovered in time to get whistled for a foul while blocking Stabler's last-second layup, giving the Moline senior a pair of free throws.
Stabler's first charity toss rolled around the rim before falling for the final score. The second freebie was intentionally missed to prevent Galesburg from getting an inbound chance at a game-winning 3-pointer.
"That was a heady play by both of those guys,'' Moline coach Jeff Schimmel said. "It was good to see two seniors step up like that.
"I didn't call it there. They did it on their own and that's good to see. They took something from the practice floor and applied it to a game situation. We might have caught them celebrating a little bit.''
The decision prevented Galesburg (13-12, 4-2) from remaining a game back of league-leading Quincy (14-4, 6-0 Big 6) with the Blue Devils coming to Galesburg next Friday.
The victory also allowed Moline (14-9, 2-4) to win its second straight Big 6 game and continue building momentum toward next month's postseason.
"This was a huge confidence booster,'' Moline's Brandon Vice said after pairing game-highs in points (18) and blocks (five) with a team-best seven rebounds. "We're proving right now we're a better team than we were the first time around (the Big 6). It's all about pride right now. We'd like to get some more upsets and keep this momentum going.''
Besides the big night from Vice, and 16 more points from Jed Wood, Moline got the win by limiting Gibson to 17 points and a game-best eight rebounds. Gibson had 38 points and 11 rebounds when Galesburg won at Wharton Field House on Nov. 30.
"We didn't want him putting up 38 again on us,'' said Schimmel, whose club played mostly man-to-man defense, choosing to double-team Gibson every time he touched the ball. "We took it personally and someone else was going to beat us tonight.''
Instead, Moline used a 13-0 run in the second quarter to build a double-digit lead that held until late.
Vice scored six points in that surge, including four from the foul line, with the 48-percent free-throw shooter finishing 10-for-10 from the charity stripe.
However, after complimenting Moline's effort, Galesburg coach Mike Reynolds cried foul for a 27-11 free-throw shooting disparity, with Moline whistled 10 times to 22 for the hosts.
"Big 6 basketball is a dog fight, but tonight it was like square dancing,'' ranted the former United Township assistant. "Every scouting report I've had in five years here says the toughest, most aggressive, most physical team always wins. But that was the least physical Big 6 game I've ever seen.
"In five years here, I haven't said one word about any official on the radio and the paper, but tonight's the exception. That was a joke. To have an official tell us at halftime we teach our guys to foul? That's unprofessional. He had it in his mind he was going to call fouls on us.
"The difference between the last 2:41 and the other 29 minutes is they stopped calling fouls. It was refereed like every single Big 6 game I've seen on tape this year. They let the kids decide it.''
The foul-shooting disparity included zero attempts for Gibson, the Big 6's leader with 149 free-throws so far in the regular season, including 29 in five previous league games.
Besides hitting 21-of-27 freebies, Moline was a sizzling 15-for-25 from the field, including 6-of-8 from 3-point land, with Wood making 4-of-5.
Unable to take advantage of the sagging defense and the double teams on Gibson to sink more open jumpers, Galesburg was only 22-for-60 from the field.
Joe Williams added 15 points off the Galesburg bench. Tyler Biscontine chipped in a game-high 6 assists for Moline.
``You can argue about the last foul -- was it? wasn't it? -- but the fact is it shouldn't have come to that,'' Reynolds said. ``We didn't play as well as we're capable of, but Moline had a good game plan, played well and took us out of some things.
``I said before the game, Moline's going to knock some people off in the second half. Unfortunately, it was us. We lost a golden opportunity to set something up big next week. We're not out of the league race, but we're sitting with Rock Island now, hoping we get some help.''
Today is Tuesday, Sept. 16, the 259th day of 2014. There are 106 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A fine lumber mill is on the course of erection at Andalusia. A flouring mill at that location is doing a fine business. 1889 — 125 years ago: J.B. Lidders, past captain of Beardsley Camp, Sons of Veterans, returned from Paterson, N.Y., where he attended the National Sons of Veterans encampments. 1914 — 100 years ago: President Wilson announced that he had received from the imperial chancellor of Germany a noncommittal reply to his inquiry into a report that the emperor was willing to discuss terms of peace. 1939 — 75 years ago: Delegates at the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church in Springfield voted to raise the minimum pay of ministers so that every pastor would get at least $1,000 annually. 1964 — 50 years ago: An audience of more than 2,600 persons jammed into the Davenport RKO Orpheum theater with a shoe horn feasted on a Miller-Diller evening that was a killer night. Phyllis Diller sent the audience with her offbeat humor. And send them she did! It was Miss Diller's third appearance in the Quad-Cities area. 1989 — 25 years ago: A few years ago, a vacant lot on 7th Avenue and 14th Street in Rock Island was a community nuisance. Weeds grew as high 18 inches. Today, the lot has a new face, thanks to Michael and Sheila Rind and other neighbors who helped them turn it into a park three weeks ago.