By: Jeremy Leveille
It was hands down one of the best high school basketball games of the 2012-2013 season, which is why it's a shame that it will also go down as one of the most controversial ones.
Bishop Brady had a 55-53 lead with 6:51 left in the 4th quarter. Then Brady forward Aaron Svendsen went up with a shot inside and Stark was whistled for a for a foul. It was called on Stark's 6-foot-8 center Zach Grattan, a 3-year starter, all-state player and one of the top big men in the state. According to the scorekeeper doing the book for Bishop Brady, it was Grattan's fifth foul, so he was done for the game. Or was he? The John Stark scorekeeper had Grattan down for just 4 fouls.
"At least I made history" said Grattan, who had 9 points and 9 rebounds in the loss. "By becoming the first player to ever foul out with 4 fouls. We know what happened, and they know what happened."
Grattan's teammate Nic Loyd had a sensational game with a career-high 37 points (including 8 3-pointers) and 5 steals. But once Grattan fouled out it was much tougher for Lloyd to get looks, as having Grattan's presence in the paint opened things up for Lloyd on the perimeter. It also made things easier for Brady to attack the rim and score inside. And led by the strong play of the Bell brothers (Jourdain & Joe), Brendan Johnson, Steve Desmarais and Svendsen, the Giants went on to win 72-64 for their first playoff win since 2004.
"I don't know how else to say it, the home team's scorekeeper made a mistake" said John Stark head coach Mike Smith. "I don't think it was done on purpose, the girl made an honest mistake. I'm proud of the way we handled the adversity."
Shortly after Grattan fouled out, Brady went up by 7, which was at the time their largest lead of the game. Generals wing Adam Wasiewski made a great blocked shot on Jourdain Bell, but then Brady got the ball back and Johnson drilled a BIG 3-pointer from the corner off a skip pass. Desmarais then scored inside off a baseline out of bounds play to push the Brady lead to 60-53. with 4:21 left in the 4th quarter.
Stark really needed a bucket here to stay in it, and they got it. Joseph Nelson hit a 3 from the wing to cut the lead to 60-56. The 2 teams raced up and down the floor, as this game had a great pace to it throughout. It was a packed gym with a crowd that was loud all game.
"We haven't had this many fans at a game since I've been here" said Desmarais. "I came here from Concord my sophomore year. We only won 2 games that year, and to go from to to this is the most amazing feeling I've ever had."
Jourdain Bell then came up with a big time steal, finishing it on the other end with a nifty scoop shot on the break to avoid a defender. That put Brady up 64-56 and it looked like the game was over.
But to the Generals' credit, they simply refused to give up. Nic Simeone grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a turnaround jumper. Then Wasiewski drilled a clutch 3-pointer from the wing off a skip pass to cut the Giants' lead to 64-61. There was still 2:20 left which was plenty of time for Srark to come back.
Brady called a timeout and once again Johnson hit a 3-pointer from the right corner. It was a breakout game for Johnson, who is only a sophomore but had a team-high 24 points. Scary to think that Jourdain Bell is also only a sophomore and Joe Bell is only a freshman. Needless to say this Brady team will be very good for the next few years.
"Brendan told us he'd be open in the corner and that we needed to hit him over there" said Jourdain Bell.
Again, Stark wouldn't go away. Lloyd answered Johnson's shot with yet another 3-pointer of his own, cutting the Bishop Brady lead to 67-64. After a pair of FT's by Jourdain Bell (18 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals) the Giants were now up 69-64 with 1:20 left.
Stark was running out of time but still had a chance. They needed a basket here though. Unfortunately they turned it over, Johnson added 3 more free throws and Brady won it by a final score of 74-66. It was a barn burner!
"Both teams played a really good game, this is what playoff basketball is about" said Bishop Brady head coach Mark Yeaton. "That kid (Lloyd) went off, he made a lot of tough shots. If Grattan was in for the last 7 minutes it's anyone's game."
Coach Yeaton touched on it, but you really can't say enough about the spectacular performance by Lloyd in this game. He is only 5-foot-8 but plays with a ton of heart, and he hit big shot after big shot with a combination of 3-pointers and floaters.
"He was fantastic, it was the best first round performance I've seen as a coach" said Smith, who's in his 13th year coaching the team. "He carried the load for us, especially with Zach feeling under the weather. Nic is one of the toughest kids I've ever coached. He's notr afraid of attacking the paint and going to the rim."
Lloyd made a hard push with the ball on the break, sliced through Giant's defense, got to the rim and laid it in with 1 second left in the 1st quarter. That gave Stark a 16-15 lead at the end of 1, as the Generals ended the quarter on an 11-3 run. In the 2nd quarter he hit a big 3 off the catch to tie the game up 22-22, and then connected on a very tough floater in the lane to put his team up 29-27. He hit a couple more tough floaters in the 3rd quarter, but then Brady went on a run in the 3rd quarter led by the Bell brothers and Johnson. The Giants went up 51-44 after a good finish on the break by Johnson. Lloyd answered back though with back-to-back 3's at the end of the quarter, and Brady's lead was just 51-50 heading to the 4th quarter.
"To be honest I wasn't making anything in warm-ups" explained Lloyd. "But then when the game started I know it was time, I just wanted to win."
You had the dramatic endding to the game with the controversy surrounding Grattan's foul out. You had the spectacular performance by Lloyd, as well as big games for Johnson and the Bell brothers. You had an electric atmosphere with 2 rival school going at it in a playoff game.
But what made the game even more exciting was how competitive it was. Basketball is ually a game of runs. You usually have a few different 9-2, 8-0 or 12-3 runs that end up being the difference in the game. That was not the case with this one. It was close thoughout, especially in the 2nd and 3rd quarters when the teams went back-and-forth, trading big shot for big shot. This game had more lead changes than a really old mechanical pencil (get it?).
After Lloyd's runner at the end of the 1st quarter gave Stark a 1 point lead, Desmarais (11 points and 6 rebounds) began the 2nd quarter off with an inside bucket to put Brady back on top. On the very next possession, just seconds later, Grattan scored inside on a turnaround bank shot as the Generals regained the lead. Jourdain Bell then made his second insanely good pass of the game, finding Svendsen for 2 inside and Brady was back on top by 1. The Giants then went up by 3, but Lloyd hit a 3-pointer to tie it and then he hit a floater to put Stark back on top. The teams just continued to battle each other on every possession, pushing the tempo and playing fast-break basketball which was fun to watch.
The flow of the game was broken up though, early in the 4th quarter when Grattan supposedly fouled out. When the foul was called play was stopped for a few minutes while the officials went over to the scorer's table to check the score sheets and discuss the matter with both head coaches before ruling Grattan had fouled out.
"We needed Zach in the game, he's big for us" said Lloyd. "We thought we could get to the Final Four, this isn't how we wanted to go out."
It was a heartbreaking end to the season for Stark.
"It was a really good atmosphere, I haven't seen a playoff game like this in awhile" said Grattan, who said that he and Lloyd have been playing school and AAU ball together since 6th grade. "We compliment each other's games, we always know what the other one is going to do. It will be tough now not playing together."
Heartbreak for Stark was jubilation for Brady, who no moves on to the quarterfinals where they will take on #3 seed Lebanon on Saturday night.
I'm excited, I'm ready to go play Lebanon" said Jourdain Bell.