ASHLAND, Ky. – Where do we start?
Game 2 of the best-of-3 in “That ‘70s Show” was a humdinger. It was filled with drama, near fights, a war of (radio) words and a controversial finish.
Dick Martin Sr. and his son, Dicky, were the broadcasters on two different stations – WCMI representing the 1970-74 Tomcats with Dick Sr. and Pete Wonn and WAMX representing the 1975-79 Tomcats with Dicky and David Payne. They set up beside each other – maybe not the best of ideas – and it was said this game produced more “homer calls” than happened during the home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in 1998. More on the Martins’ calls later.
Here’s the easy part: The 1975-79 Tomcat All-Stars prevailed 100-99 over the 1970-74 Tomcats in packed Anderson gym when the referees ruled that Danny Evans’ toe was on the 3-point line when he swished a shot at the top of the key that would have tied the game at the buzzer.
The officials said no, pointing to the stripe at the top of the key, and things got crazy as they headed off the floor somehow being escorted by Mark Swift, a future athletic director for the Tomcats who, as a player, made a “guarantee” after the Game 1 loss that his 1975-79 Tomcats would win Game 2.
1970-74 Coach Steve Gilmore was running after them and Dick Martin Sr. was crying foul on the radio while, right next to him, young Dicky was describing the pandemonium on the floor to his listeners and calling it one of the greatest wins he’d ever witnessed. Father and son just kept getting louder and louder expressing their opinions on what just happened.
“They took that one from us!” said Dick Sr.
“It was the right call, his toe was touching the line, by gawd!” said Dicky.
And on and on it went in one of the most confusing endings anybody had ever witnessed.
But let’s start from the beginning.
1975-79 Coach Paul Patterson’s message to his players after giving up 105 points in the first game got through loud and clear. He told them to be more aggressive, to stop being pushed around and never be intimidated.
As part of his strategy, he started Donnie Allen to give the defense an edge. It may have been too sharp of an edge.
Allen was like a bowling ball on defense, getting up in the face of Johnny Mullins and then Dale Lynch. Neither of those guys took it very well. A hard foul by Allen when Mullins went up for a layup led to the two players squaring off. Order was restored, but the fight was on. Those three all fouled out eventually.
The 75-79 Tomcats, maybe fueled by Allen’s hard-nosed defense, jumped out to a 34-23 lead after the first quarter. But the momentum began to swing. Trailing 37-30, the 70-74 Tomcats scored eight in a row to take the lead for the first time at 38-37.
The game remained physical, but the 75-79 Tomcats got the upper hand again behind dominating play from Jeff Kovach and Jim Harkins, who combined for 21 points in the first half. The 75-79 Tomcats led 54-46 at the half.
“We gave up a lot of points, but our defense was so much better,” Patterson said. “We played with some heart.”
The game remained tight throughout the second half and it was 77-73 going into the fourth quarter.
It got tense in the last three minutes. Back-to-back baskets from Jeff Cooksey pulled the 70-74 Tomcats within 94-93. Harkins scored on a nice inside move and Mullins banked in a 12-footer that made it 96-95. Jimmy Mann and Ronnie Griffith exchanged baskets and it was 98-97 with 1:58 remaining.
Kovach, who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, powered one in to make it 100-97 with 1:15 remaining. The teams traded two turnovers apiece and only 12 seconds remained when Steve Dodd stole a pass and started a fastbreak. Evans had the ball in the middle with Lynch going down one side and Dwayne Farrow streaking down the other. Evans stopped at the top of the key when the defense backed up and let it fly … Swish! The horn sounded, and the 70-74 Tomcats started celebrating the basket that tied the game when the referees began blowing whistles.
The trailing ref ran over to the top of the key and pointed to the spot where he said the tip of Evans’ Converse at touched the 3-point stripe as he let it go.
That’s when the place went crazy.
It took about 20 minutes for order to be restored. Gilmore came out after 30 minutes, still mad as a hornet, but offered a smile. “I just wanted to have a conversation with those guys,” he said. “Great shot by Danny and he was clearly behind that line. We should have played an overtime.”
Evans said he wasn’t sure. “I didn’t look down to see,” he said. “But I knew we needed three to tie.”
Harkins finished with 27 points and five rebounds and Mann collected 17 pints and 10 rebounds. Mark Collins scored 13 and Allen collected nine points, six assists and five rebounds for the 75-79 Tomcats.
“Donnie set the tone for us,” Patterson said. “When you need toughness, that’s who you go to.”
Griffith had a fabulous game with 28 points and 17 rebounds while Cooksey had 18 points and five rebounds. Mullins scored 12 and Lynch 11 although they were a combined 8-for-29 shooting, at least partially due to Allen’s defense.
“We didn’t get the shots like we did the first time we played them,” Gilmore said. “Allen should have had 10 fouls called on him. Those guys in our locker room weren’t happy at all with how this turned out. I wish we could have played again tonight”
And what about Mark Swift taking the refs off the floor?
“Hey, boys, I was just hurrying to the bathroom,” he said. “I had some bad chili last night. Those guys were just running alongside me. I didn’t know until I got through the door. I guarantee that’s the truth.”
1975-79 ASHLAND (100) – Collins 3-7 6-9 13, Allen 3-6 3-6 9, Mann 8-16 1-1 17, Kovach 6-14 5-6 17, Harkins 9-16 9-9 27, G.Swift 1-4 0-0 2, M.Swift 4-14 0-0 8, Dummit 0-2 0-0 0, Welch 3-7 1-2 7, Smith 0-6 0-0 0. FG: 37-92 FT: 25-33. 3FG: 1-4 (Collins 1-3, Dummit 0-1). Rebounds: 58 (Collins 7, Allen 5, Mann 10, Kovach 14, Harkins 5, G.Swift 3 M.Swift 6, Dummit 2, Welch 4, Smith 2). Assists: 23 (Collins 2, Allen 6, Mann 1, Kovach 1, Harkins 1, G.Swift 9, Dummit 1, Smith 2). PF: 20. Turnovers: 19.
1970-74 ASHLAND (99) – Farrow 1-4 2-2 4, Dodd 4-7 0-0 7, Cooksey 6-11 5-7 18, Mullins 6-19 0-0 12, Griffith 11-18 6-8 28, Williams 1-4 0-0 2, Lynch 2-10 6-6 11, Evans 3-3 1-2 7, Smith 2-9 0-0 4, Hixson 1-3 2-2 4. FG: 37-88. FT: 22-27. 3FG: 3-4 (Dodd 1-1, Cooksey 1-2, Lynch 1-1). Rebounds: 62 (Farrow 3, Dodd 4, Cooksey 5, Mullins 8, Griffith 17, Williams 10, Lynch 4, Evans 2, Smith 2, Hixson 7). Assists: 19 (Farrow 5, Dodd 1, Cooksey 2, Williams 4, Lynch 3, Evans 3, Smith 1). PF: 26. Turnovers: 27.
1975-79 TOMCATS 34 20 23 23 – 100
1970-74 TOMCATS 23 23 27 26 – 99