When Randolph coach Kevin Hind gathered his team together at practice on the eve of the Cardinals' Section 6 Class C-1 semifinal basketball game at Jamestown Community College, he reminded them of a few things.
''I told them, 'We're Randolph, we're champions and we've won on the biggest stage. We're not going to JCC to keep the game close, for second place or not to get blown out,''' he said. ''I told them, 'We're going to win this game.'''
Hind was nearly prophetic.
Randolph’s Nate Beavers drives past a Middle College defender during Wednesday night’s Section 6 Class C1 semifinal game at Jamestown Community College. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
But Middle College junior Tarron Scott, who was fouled on a putback attempt, hit the second of two free throws with no time remaining to send the top-seeded Kats to a stunning 56-55 victory over No. 4 Randolph on Wednesday night.
While the win advances Middle College into the Class C-1 title game against Oracle (a 71-57 winner over Barker) at 8:30 p.m. Friday at JCC, the Cardinals are left to wonder what might have been.
''That is tough,'' Hind said, ''as tough as it gets.''
Asked if it was the toughest loss of his 16-year career, he didn't hesitate with an answer.
''Oh, by far,'' he said.
Executing their game plan to perfection, the deliberate Cardinals hung with Middle College the entire game and clawed their way back from a six-point deficit in the final 1:22 courtesy of a pair of clutch 3-pointers by sophomore Bryce Morrison, the last coming with just under 30 seconds remaining.
Then the Kats held the ball until junior Kevin Briggs put up a well-defended fallaway jumper that was off the mark. The rebound fell to Scott, whose putback attempt appeared to be blocked by Randolph junior Mitchell Maycock.
An official's whistle blew.
Maycock was called for a foul.
The clock read 00:00.
''I thought he was going to lay it in, but (Maycock) got back quickly and got a good piece of him,'' Middle College coach Randall Rich said. ''It was the right call. It was just tough that it happened at that time of the game. ... It's a tough call to make, but it was the right call.''
Briggs missed the first attempt, but connected on the second, sending the Kats to the title game.
Hind said he saw ''nothing'' but a good block by Maycock.
''There was no foul,'' he said
Until the controversial ending, Randolph had played a textbook game on both ends of the floor. Morrison finished with five 3-pointers on his way to 17 points and 10 assists; Maycock had three 3-pointers and 13 points, including 10 in a row during a third-quarter outburst; senior Nate Beaver had 11 points and 10 rebounds; and junior Cody Oldro added 10 points and 10 boards.
''We knew (the deliberate offense) was going to happen,'' Rich said. ''They just did what they did better than we did to stop it. Morrison is a good basketball player, they shoot the ball well ... and they're very confident when they shoot it. When a team is hot, it's tough to defend. We were ice cold tonight.''
Still, the Kats led, 31-26, at halftime and, 45-44, after three quarters, heading into a wild final period.
After trading baskets for the first four minutes, Middle College began to build a small lead, courtesy of layups by Scott and Keir Anderson, giving the Kats a 54-49 lead with 2:20 remaining.
The dramatics were only beginning.
A minute later, Scott was fouled, but the officials conferred and ruled that a shot-clock violation occurred first, giving Randolph possession. Before the ball was put into play, however, the officials met again and reversed the call, sending Scott to the line where he made one of two attempts.
''I don't know what happened,'' Hind said.
Armed with a 55-49 lead with 1:22 remaining, Middle College appeared in control.
But Morrison drilled two treys 37 seconds apart to tie the game.
''He missed three or four in a row, but Bryce is not afraid to take the next one and his teammates aren't afraid to give him the next one,'' Hind said.
Anderson led the Kats with 19 points and Scott added 16.
''I couldn't be prouder of the effort they gave and what they did tonight,'' Hind said of his team, which finished 12-8. '' ... I'm just as proud as if we were holding (the Section 6 championship) trophy right now.''
Garcia 0 0 0, Brown 0 0 0, Maycock 5 0 13, Miller 1 2 4, Morrison 6 0 17, Beaver 5 0 11, Oldro 4 2 10, Totals 21 4 55.
MIDDLE COLLEGE (56)
Scott 6 4 16, Anderson 7 5 19, Briggs 1 3 6, Jefferson 3 0 6, Mingo 1 0 2, Brown 2 0 4, Staton 1 0 3, Totals 21 12 56.
3-point goals-Maycock 3, Morrison 5, Beaver, Jefferson, Staton.
Randolph 16 10 18 11 - 55
Middle College 14 17 14 11 -56