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By: Tuesday and Friday
We all know the family drill. We get together for the holidays and usually around half way through the day or evening the family sidles up to Grand Pa to hear stories of days gone by. We respectfully listen, even though it could be Gran Pa’s 10th or 15th retelling of the story. We always lose track after some jumbo shrimp or opening of yet another present. The reason I bring this up is someday Grand Pa Brandon Radford will be spinning the tale of the winning state title layup.
In a game filled with a plethora of All State players the winning shot belongs to 6’1 Londonderry sophomore Brandon Radford. You have 5 All State players between the 2 teams and a hard working undersized 6 footer, who you would have a tough time getting 3 official NHIAA programs underneath his feet when he jumps, is the owner of the shot that gives the Londonderry boys their first ever state title. 50 years from now when Grand Pa Radford is retelling the 3/21/15 Ship story for the 10th or 15th time, the winning shot might become a half court heave under pressure that went all net at the buzzer. That’s OK Grand Pa, because it was once said, “When it comes to the man or the legend, print the legend. The legend is always more interesting.”
Both teams started cold and tentative. The 2 D1 heavyweights were trying to get a feel for each other, the game and the event. Shots were tight. There was no flow to the game. As I looked around in the opening period I noticed 1 thing. The Pinkerton student body was ON TIME. They actually read the memo. If you remember, none of the 3100 students were at tip off for their 6 pm semifinal game last Tuesday……. NONE!! Not only were they there on time, but they were in strong numbers. Way to go University of Pinkerton student body!!
Londonderry heated up in the 2nd quarter going 9 for 13 from the field. They seized control at halftime by outscoring Pinkerton 26 to 12 in the 2nd quarter. The slithery sophomore Jake Coleman hit a couple of 3’s to soften up the Astro defense. Marc Corey had a nice period in going 4 – 4 from the field scoring 11 points in the 2nd. Coleman and Corey combined for 21 of the Lancer’s 26 2nd period points.
The most important series of events took place in a 6 second span of the 3rd period. POY Cody Ball picked up his 3rd and 4th personal fouls. When he picked up his 4th foul on an attempted shot block there was 4 minutes and 39 seconds left in the 3rd period. As Ball exited the game, even the heartiest Lancer fan had to think the 32 to 27 Londonderry lead was tenuous at best. Romick hits a FT, Romick hits a runner, Rizzo drains a 3 and a Rizzo layup concludes an 8 – 0 Pinkerton run to take a 35 to 32 Astro lead with 2:25 remaining in the 3rd period.
The next 2:25 was crucial in determining this state title game.
Pinkerton came up empty scoring nothing in the next 2:25. A Kwiatkowski extended elbow 3 with 1:25 left in the 3rd tied the game at 35. This was the 2nd biggest shot of the game for the Lancers. After Pinkerton seized control with their 8 – 0 run with a 32 to 27 lead, if the Astros had scored more points and built a 6 to 10 point lead heading into the 4th period, it could have proved costly for the Lancers. Londonderry was having trouble bringing the ball up without Ball and undersized guards off the bench. They were putting fingers in the Lancer basketball dike and hoping a wave of Astros wouldn’t break through. This was rubber meet the road time for the Ship. Pinkerton came up empty in the last 2:25. The Big 3 by K-Ski and a Corey layup with 35 seconds left in the 3rd gave Londonderry a 37 to 35 lead heading into the 4th.
Games can be won or lost at different time spans of the game from opening tip to final buzzer. I submit to you Londonderry won their state title with Cody Ball out for the last 4:39 of the 3rd period. Whether this becomes man or legend, it is the Londonderry Time of Winning. If Pinkerton builds a larger lead with Ball out then they probably come away with the Ship. In letting Londonderry not only survive the loss of Ball for over half the 3rd, but letting the Lancers go into the 4th with the lead is a tough pill to swallow for Pinkerton basketball fans.
The 4th period was taken over by 4 of the 5 All State players. Corey, Coleman, Rizzo and Geo all hit big shots and the lead was exchanged 6 times in the last period. Ball started the 4th, but was tentative not to foul out. Both student bodies roared when their teams took the lead. This was the rivalry game we all wanted to see and we were given a treat with the breath taking 4th period.
Junior Matt Rizzo canned 2 FTs with 1:14 left to give Pinkerton a 46 to 45 lead. It would be the Astros’ last lead of the season. Rizzo stole the ball 6 seconds later and was fouled with 57 seconds left. He rims out the front end of a 1 and 1. Pinkerton presses their defense up and 6 seconds later Grand Pa Radford converts a layup to give Londonderry a 47 to 46 lead with 50 seconds left in the game. Pinkerton comes up the court struggling in this crucial offensive possession. Pinkerton calls a time out with 22 seconds left. Pinkerton comes out of the time out, inbounds the ball, looks out of sort and the ball is passed off a Pinkerton player’s body out of bounds……. Not what was drawn up on the Astro clipboard I presume.
Coleman is fouled with 12 seconds left and misses the front end of a 1 and 1 to give Pinkerton one last possession. The Astros furiously try to get open for a shot. With 3 seconds left Rizzo has the ball at the top of the arc; he head fakes a defender beautifully, has an open look and sends the ball to the rim with the hopes of the Town of Derry riding on the descent of the ball. It rims out at the buzzer. Lancers storm the court with a Championship hop. Rizzo falls flat on his back in utter disappointment.
Londonderry showed a strong team resolve they had all season, when Ball went out with foul trouble in the 3rd period. The Lancers shored up the 3rd period leaks and became mentally tough. Corey and Coleman came up big combining for 33 of the 47 lancer points. If a Lancer fan had heard Ball finished with 5 points in the State Title game they would have figured the Astros hoisted the big plaque at the end. The Londonderry boys’ basketball program earned their first ever title. For Pinkerton it was another bitter loss to their main rival on the Big Stage. The Astros will be back. They return Rizzo, Romick and Morris. Whether Geo returns to Pinkerton will determine if the Astros are a Top 4 team next season or fight for a Top 8 slot.
It is now 50 years later in year 2065. The fire is burning at the Radford Family Christmas get together. The presents have been opened, the dinner consumed and now it’s time for dessert and coffee by the fire: Time for Grand Pa Radford to tell the story of his winning basket that gave the Londonderry High boys their first title. Little 9 year old Brandon Radford the 3rd says to his mom, “Do we have to listen to Grand Pa’s winning shot story again?”
Mother Radford smiles and says, “Come on now Brandon. You know how much Grand Pa loves to tell that winning Londonderry shot story.”
Yes, the legend might become more interesting in another half century.