clearly still in (Dobbs’) hands (when the buzzer went off). When you
have three officials, one of them has to have enough gall to make the
call in a regional championship.”
And in a split second Sunday afternoon, the officials rendered a decision that would heighten the thrill of victory and agony of defeat with a coveted trip to Columbus in the balance.
The starring role in this Division I regional final drama was played by St. Edward point guard Frankie Dobbs, who launched a 3-pointer at the end of regulation against Warren Harding. It clanked off the rim, kissed the backboard and slid through the hoop.
The game was tied at 71-71 and headed to overtime. Or was it? The Raiders claimed Dobbs released the shot after time ran out. But the referees accepted it, allowing St. Edward to emerge with a 77-75 victory and a second consecutive state tournament berth.
Moments after watching the Eagles hoist the championship trophy Harding coach Steve Arnold expressed his belief that it was his team that should have been celebrating.
“(The shot) wasn’t good, plain and simple,” he exclaimed. “The ball was clearly still in (Dobbs’) hands (when the buzzer went off). When you have three officials, one of them has to have enough gall to make the call in a regional championship.”
Arnold didn’t hold back in making that same claim to the officials walking by the Harding locker room following the game.
“You have to make that call!” he said to them emphatically. “You have to make that call. I have kids who worked their butts off out there.”
The Eagles also worked their butts off, particularly in the second half, when they erased a 13-point deficit. And it was Dobbs who again played hero in overtime. Dobbs, who scored 14 of his 20 points after intermission, anticipated and stole a pass near midcourt, then swooped in for a layup to give his team a 77-75 lead with five seconds remaining.
Harding guard Desmar Jackson (team-high 21 points) missed a driving banker as both time and his season ended. Just that quickly, the Raiders went from playing for the last shot to going home. And Dobbs couldn’t have been happier.
“They were looking a little lazy with their passes back and forth,” Dobbs explained. “Fortunately, I was able to step in and steal it. I tried to get to the basket as fast as I could. I knew all they could do was foul me and send me to the line, but I was able to finish.”
Dobbs had another story to tell – the one about his buzzer-beating bomb that breathed life into his team.
“I knew there was only a little time left,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I got my feet behind the (three-point) line and shoot the ball as quickly as I could. I thought when it hit the rim and went up in the air that it had a chance.”
So did Eagles coach Eric Flannery. But he also knew that the call could go either way.
“When (Dobbs) shot it, I didn’t look at the ball,” he said. “I looked at the officials and I didn’t see them wave it off. So when the ball went in, I knew it was good. I couldn’t tell if it was in time or not. If I was their coach, I’m sure I would have argued about it as well.”
The victory marked the second consecutive significant comeback for Flannery’s team in the Division I regional. The Eagles overcame huge deficits against both Elyria and Harding. The Raiders used their quickness, ability to drive to the basket and put-backs off offensive rebounds in a 13-0 run to take a 30-13 lead. In the process, they shut down University of Indiana-bound center Tom Pritchard, who managed one basket in the game and finished with seven points before fouling out.
Harding maintained a similar advantage throughout the second quarter, but St. Edward stepped up its defensive rebounding in the third quarter and used an effective fast-break of its own to whittle down its deficit. The Eagles finally snagged a 58-56 lead with five minutes left on 3-pointers by Conor Tilow and Mike Hartnett. Harding, which hit 7 of 9 shots in the fourth quarter, recovered to forge ahead 67-61 on a Jackson layup.
That’s when Dobbs went to work, hitting two at the line and draining a driving layup before nailing the 3-pointer and scoring off the steal in overtime.
And now he and his teammates can wonder if all that snow in Columbus will be cleared out by next weekend.