Archive for Thursday, January 22, 2009

The wild card

January 22, 2009

As a sports reporter, I’ve only witnessed one actual buzzer-beater while covering basketball, and that happened two years ago. But for a few seconds last Friday night at De Soto, I thought I was going to witness another one.

In the closing seconds of the Eudora-De Soto boys game with the score tied at 51, De Soto had the ball and was called for traveling. A technical foul on De Soto followed, giving Eudora the ball with a chance to win the game at the free-throw line.

Justin Ballock stepped to the stripe with a rowdy De Soto crowd and student section hollering. Ballock missed the first free throw and made the second. Eudora’s Evan Cleveland later stepped to the line and made his first foul shot and missed the second. De Soto’s Jamel Townsend grabbed the board and tossed the ball to guard Mason Wedel.

Wedel’s desperation shot from beyond half-court looked good from where I was sitting the moment it left his hand. I could see the ball was perfectly on line and remember thinking how extraordinary it would be if that ball went through the goal.

It was the kind of shot that you would see on one of those sports TV shows where people routinely make half-court heaves and full-court shots behind their backs. You know the kind.

Wedel’s shot was “nothing but net,” to use basketball slang. But it was the bottom of the net. Oh, so close. So close.

Eudora players and fans cheered, and De Soto faithful let out a collective “Oh!” as the buzzer sounded and the ball hit the floor. But somewhere between the opening tip and the final buzzer I knew I was enjoying one of the best high school basketball games that I have ever seen.

Two rival schools played hard and clean. Both teams played together and played as teams, too. There was lots of hustle, with players diving on the floor for loose balls all game long.

There were players and parents jumping up and down after their respective team made a basket. And there was, of course, the ending that both teams could learn from.

Eudora was in a similar setting the week before at Baldwin. Eudora won the game in overtime. After the game Friday night, Eudora players said the Baldwin game helped them in the closing minutes. And in the Frontier League, there could be a few more games that go down to the wire this year like Friday’s game did.

“Our whole league is just so even that night in and night out if you don’t come ready to play you’re going to get beat,” Eudora coach Kyle Deterding said. “And if both teams come to play it should be a good entertaining game.”

De Soto coach Jim Bonar said the game was both great and disappointing in the end.

“For a fan’s entertainment purposes, I thought they probably got their dollar’s worth,” Bonar said. “The outcome, of course, we definitely wanted it to be different.”

Bonar said he didn’t think any team in the league would run away from the pack. And that might be a good thing because if there are more games like the Eudora-De Soto boys game, both communities will get to enjoy high school basketball at its best. And maybe see a buzzer-beater, too.

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