Shocking End to Jan. Basketball Game
On Jan. 28 BC’s basketball game against Point University came with a surprise ending that shocked many.
February 13, 2012
Borgia M’bala took two steps back, faked to his right, and took off to his left. He left a first defender behind like his feet were cemented to the floor. Then, he skipped through the lane between two defenders on his way to the basket.
As the ball bounced off the backboard and fell through the basket, the Bluefield men’s basketball team had taken a five-point lead with 32 seconds left in its Jan. 28 matchup with the Point University Skyhawks.
BC's Borgia M'bala puts up a shot against Point.
Photo by Joey Waltz
Many reasonable basketball enthusiasts would proclaim that with so little time left and a 78-73 lead, the game was clinched. The Rams would come away with a hard-fought victory. While the token pessimist in the group might break out the cliché, “it’s not over ‘til the final buzzer,” even he knows that it would take a careless effort by Bluefield or the sports equivalent of a miracle for Point to cover the deficit.
“I felt like anything could happen,” Bluefield freshman Josh Locklear said. “Being up five points isn’t a big enough cushion to cruise through for the win.”
That afternoon delivered the more improbable outcome. The next 30 seconds of basketball would send the teams and fans in the Dome Gymnasium on an emotional roller coaster.
The Skyhawks called timeout and regrouped. Head coach Alan Wilson needed to get points fast. He turned to senior Shasta Scott.
“Coach drew up a play for me knowing I had a quick release,” said Scott.
On the next play, Scott rotated from the baseline to the wing and rattled in a three-pointer over two Bluefield defenders.
78-76. This game just got interesting again.
With 22 seconds left, the Rams called a timeout and reset. Knowing that Point would be looking to foul quickly, they wanted to make sure to get the ball into the hands of a solid free throw shooter.
The inbound pass went to Kearsten Marion. Although he had not yet attempted a free throw in the game, he had the team’s leader on foul shots for the season at just below 90 percent.
A quick foul by Point sent Marion to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity and a chance to push the lead back to two possessions.
Marion took two dribbles and put up the shot. The ball rattled around the rim and fell out into the hands of a Point rebounder.
There was a gasp from the crowd. The momentum had shifted and suddenly the Skyhawks could tie the game with a two-pointer or take the lead with a three.
They brought the ball down court and worked it to the baseline. A quick pass sent the ball back to the hands of Scott, who once again put up a three-pointer over two Bluefield defenders.
With 6.5 seconds left, the shot fell through.
79-78. The Point bench erupted. The home fans were stunned.
“I was just hoping that my teammates found me,” said Scott. “I just knocked down the shot when I had the opportunity to.”
There was still plenty of time for Bluefield. 6.5 seconds is sometimes an eternity at the end of a basketball game.
Bluefield head coach Richard Morgan called another timeout. Rams’ guard Alvin Board was told to check back into the game.
“Coach Morgan drew up a play for [Marion] to come off a pick at the top of the key,” said Board. “He told me to go to the corner in case he gets stuck and he needs to kick it out.”
Marion would have a chance at redemption after missing the free throw.
The ball was inbounded and Marion drove the length of the court. When he reached the three-point line, he cut right around two Point defenders and banked the ball in off the glass, leaving 0.8 seconds on the clock.
80-79. Bluefield had reclaimed the lead and the Dome exploded in cheers and celebration as fans jumped and high fived each other.
“I thought it was definitely won, especially with less than a second left,” said Locklear. “I thought there was no way Point would win the game.”
There was less than one second left. The game had to be clinched for Bluefield.
But it’s not over ‘til the final buzzer.
Point’s Jeremy Mahaffey quickly grabbed the ball out stepped to the baseline. Tory Wooley locked eyes with Mahaffey and sprinted for the other end of the court.
“We looked at each other and it was just instinct,” said Mahaffey. “I knew he was going to go long.”
Board saw Wooley sprinting and took off after him. Mahaffey threw the ball as far down the court as he could.
“When I threw it, I just hoped he would get there and I just left everything else up to Tory,” said Mahaffey. “It was all in his hands.”
Board caught Wooley and threw his hands in the air, trying to make sure the pass would not get to him.
“I felt like I denied him the ball,” said Board. “There was just so much open court that it could have bounced anywhere and he still would have had a good look. I felt like I was on an island by myself.”
Wooley watched the ball take a high bounce just inside the three-point line.
“I had two things that went through my mind,” said Wooley. “First: don’t touch the ball before the bounce because the clock would start. The second thing was I did not want the defender to touch the ball because then if he touched it even a little bit, the clock was going to start.”
Wooley got behind Board and jumped in the air and seemed to float underneath the ball, waiting for just the right time to pull the trigger. He raised his arms and tipped the ball with two hands like a set in volleyball.
“It was a perfect pass,” said Wooley. “I wanted to catch the ball on the left-hand side of the goal because I had a better angle for a bank shot. I caught the ball and I said, ‘you know what, hopefully I can win the game off this.’”
The Dome was silent. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. The ball left his hands and bounced off the square on the backboard. The final horn sounded as it rolled to the front of the rim and seemed to stop, teetering between rolling in and rolling out.
It was as if the ball had a mind of its own and was being stubbornly indecisive. It could either roll over the outside of the rim and Bluefield would escape with a win, or it could roll down and in, giving Point the win and a heart breaking loss for the Rams.
81-80. The ball fell in.
The Dome was stunned.
“My jaw dropped,” said Josh Locklear. “I couldn’t believe that they won by one point on a play like that.”
Point players swarmed Wooley in celebration.
“It was like a movie,” said Board. “I felt like … wow. I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe that just happened.”
Board stood under the basket motionless with his hands at his side as the Point players jumped and celebrated around him.
“When it first happened, I was looking for the referee to waive it off and say the basket was no good,” said Board. “I was waiting on him. Everybody was jumping around and I realized the basket counted.”
Point had never practiced the play. The improvisation by Mahaffey and Wooley came from familiarity with each other.
“It just came by instinct,” said Mahaffey. “This is our second year playing together. He knew what to do and I knew what to do.”
The improbable ending to the game marked a moment that will stick in the minds of players on both teams.
“I felt that every workout that I’ve ever done was all capped into that last play,” said Wooley. “Every shooting drill that we’ve done, every passing drill that we’ve done, every box-out drill that we’ve done, I think it was capped into that one last couple of possessions.”
The end of the game will always marked in the mind of everyone in attendance and give credence at future games to the pessimist and his cliché, “it’s not over ‘til the final buzzer.”