CLASS A: A steal and basket in final seconds lifts Miami Northwest Christian to a stunning 48-47 victory.
By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2003
LAKELAND -- The ball was right there, clutched tightly between the hands of Admiral Farragut's Benny Clyde, victory all but assured.
Then, one second later, it wasn't.
Two seconds later, it was en route to Miami Northwest Christian's Richard Blue.
Three seconds later, Blue was laying it off the glass.
Four seconds later, it was all over.
In a stunningly frenetic finish, Admiral Farragut's opportunity to play for a state title died beneath a flurry of Northwest Christian pressure as the No. 1 Eagles rallied for a 48-47 win Wednesday morning at the Lakeland Center.
Trailing 47-46 after John Whitehead's two free throws with 22.4 seconds left, Northwest Christian rushed the ball up the court and into a baseline trap, where Clyde stole the ball.
Instead of calling a timeout, or more preferably tucking the ball away, Clyde held the ball aloft and looked to pass.
Eon Rivera ripped the ball back from Clyde, and after dishing to Blue for the winning basket with 4.2 seconds left, he stole the inbounds pass and fired up his own shot as time expired to seal the win and end the Blue Jackets' 22-game winning streak.
"We had the ball in our hands," Admiral Farragut coach Mike Wells said. "We had the game won.
"If you can hook the basketball with five seconds left, there's not much they can do."
"It all happened in a blur," senior forward Elliot Anderson said. "But you can't blame a loss on just one play. We had many chances to go up by more than one point."
Farragut, which finished 32-3, started the game with a 15-3 run and looked as if it might shoot Northwest out of the gym. Anderson had five points in the run, including a 3-pointer, and Whitehead added two 3-pointers in the run.
But the Eagles (32-3) showed patience to get back in it, and the Blue Jackets' impatience let them. After Lewis Lampley's 3-pointer to start the second quarter made it 20-9, Admiral Farragut made one basket, a breakaway layup, in the next 16 minutes, none in the third quarter.
Lampley struggled against the Eagle pressure and the Blue Jackets seemed content to fire from long distance, including a handful of shots from several feet beyond the 3-point arc.
"That's what happens sometimes (when you're hot early)," Wells said. "I think we stopped moving and fell in love with watching people shoot."
The Blue Jackets were 1-of-12 on 3-pointers during the final 23 minutes, and Lampley (seven) and Whitehead (12) combined for 19 of their team's 25 turnovers.
Northwest took advantage, going ahead by halftime and staying there heading into the final quarter with a 34-28 edge.
Whitehead converted a three-point play to end the drought for the Blue Jackets, Vitor Boccardo, hampered by foul trouble all game, scored on a drive and Whitehead added another basket to put Farragut up 35-34.
After a brief Eagle rally, Admiral Farragut scored seven straight to lead 42-37 with 2:21 remaining. But Boccardo's 3-pointer with 3:59 left was the final Blue Jacket field goal, while Blue went on a game-ending tear by scoring his team's last eight points.
The 47 points were Admiral Farragut's fewest of the season, eclipsing the low of 61 in its loss to Florida Air Academy.
Whitehead led all scorers with 24 points and was the only Blue Jacket in double figures. Boccardo had eight and six rebounds, and Clyde had seven points.