While driving back from Willard after witnessing Friday's triple-overtime thriller between Calvert and Wynford for the Division IV district championship, I recalled a column the late, great A-T sports editor Dave Feltner wrote about another tournament game that needed multiple extra periods and included a particularly memorable, last-second shot.
Many Calvert fans who watched the Senecas come up on the short end of a 70-67 decision Friday also will remember (more fondly, for sure) the game Dave took in eight years ago: Phillip Borer got an inbound pass from the baseline in the final seconds of the second overtime and put up an off-balance 15-footer that bounced on the rim a few times before falling in, giving the Senecas a 47-46 win over Old Fort in the sectional finals at Hopewell-Loudon. It turned out to be Calvert's last win in a 21-1 season.
Dave wrote a column the day after that epic battle, citing that one story could not do the game justice. Time and space limited what moments could be described with the depth they deserved.
The Calvert-Wynford game didn't take the same exact same course as Calvert-Old Fort - a constantly tight struggle that was tied at the end of each quarter except the last, and involved an 11-10 team trying to pull an upset of the state's top-ranked squad - but it certainly belongs in the one-is-not-enough category, as well.
Beforehand, it would have been hard for any partisan spectator to say his or her team definitely was better and should win. I had no problem referring to the matchup as a tossup.
The Senecas entered last night's game at 18-4, having regrouped after a 2-4 stretch to claim a share of the Midland Athletic League title and grab tournament wins over two opponents they already had vanquished during their 13-0 start. The Wynford Royals were 17-5 after rallying from a double-digit deficit in the second half of their district semifinal win.
Friday it was Calvert that had to play from behind after the first quarter. Wynford's lead was double digits (41-30) for less than 10 seconds in the third period, but the Senecas' comeback didn't start in earnest until less than four minutes remained in regulation, and Brandon Ritzler's steal and layup capped an 11-2 spurt to give Calvert a 48-46 edge.
An official's close call, one that incenses one side of the gym and leaves the other cheering with some relief, often pops up in games like Friday. That moment came after Ritzler's go-ahead basket, as the Senecas' pressure defense threatened to create another Wynford turnover, this one a five-second inbound call.
Wynford coach Tim Ehresman requested a timeout, and one official ruled (after some discussion) that request barely beat another official's whistle for the five-second violation. The Royals ultimately tied the game after the timeout, forcing the first overtime.
Calvert's comeback came after game-long struggles with foul shots and Wynford's offensive rebounding, and to its fans it seemed half the Senecas' drives to the basket ended with shots bounding away. But the Royals certainly weren't on Easy Street, having to overcome four turnovers in the first overtime and again netting the last points.
The Royals had a one-point lead in the second OT when Zach Chatlain missed a pair of free throws with 59 seconds left. Reserve Nate Brown grabbed an offensive rebound off the second miss - one of several Royals' offensive boards where the ball simply bounced beyond a well-positioned Calvert defender - and he also missed a pair of foul shots.
Trailing by three after Nick Warnement's clutch driving basket for Calvert, two misses at the other end and a pair of Nate Ritzler free throws for TC with 4.4 seconds left, Wynford's Nathan Glowaski threw away an inbound pass, only to see teammate Mike Powers leap and knock away Calvert's ensuing inbound, then collect the ball and pass to a hurrying Chatlain.
Chatlain's 3-point try really wasn't longer than your garden-variety try from behind the arc, and it was unchallenged, as all Calvert players had been on the other end of the court to potentially receive the inbound pass. But given the running leap and urgency involved, the fact it went in was as shocking a basket as this writer has witnessed, regardless of the fact it merely forced four more minutes instead of winning the game outright.
Two young spectators with no apparent allegiance started to exit the Calvert side of the bleachers after Glowaski's turnover. The sudden roar from the other side of Haas Gymnasium caused them to beat hasty path back to their seats.
Just as Borer's basket eight years ago was possible only because teammate Nick Lay hustled to secure a long offensive rebound and called timeout with less than three seconds remaining, Chatlain had no chance to play hero if not for Powers' efforts.
It might've been just as impressive if Calvert had overcome the 3-pointer to prevail in triple overtime, and the Senecas certainly had a chance. But Warnement got whistled for an offensive foul with his team trailing by one in the final minute, appeared poised to drive for a potential game-tying basket when Calvert coach Ted Willman got a timeout call with 4.3 seconds left, then when inbounding the ball tried to call a timeout his team didn't have.
It was a tough ending for the sophomore point guard and his teammates who had played so well from the fourth quarter on. Warnement, Matt Frank, Nate Ritzler and Ben Nielsen (who appeared to injure his shoulder during a third-quarter scramble for the ball and later returned to the bench with a sling) are reasons the Senecas have a reasonable chance to return next year to Friday's setting.
Incredibly, Wynford's Seth Rall made just 1 of 4 free throws after the no-timeout-left technical, giving Calvert fans even the faintest hope of their team matching Chatlain's feet. Alas, that shot never came, the ball slipping away from Frank as he swiftly dribbled toward halfcourt.
In the postgame celebration, Ehresman said with more honesty than sarcasm that his team was ready to go another four minutes if needed.
But 44 minutes were just enough for the Royals, probably were four too many for the Senecas and certainly were too many to deserve the standard paper-and-ink treatment.
Mike Genet is associate sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.
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