A shot to remember or one to forget? It’s a 1990s thriller

ASHLAND, Ky. – David “Smooth” Greene found himself with the basketball in his hands with the 1990-94 Tomcats trailing 100-99 and only seconds remaining.

There wasn’t a defender near him, but it hadn’t been the best of nights for Greene, who was 1-for-9 shooting. Nothing would go in, not even layups. A tough night.

“I kind of, well, stunk,” he said bluntly.

Greene was open by design. The 1995-99 Tomcats had surrounded Marty Thomas with the game on the line. Somebody was going to be left without a defender. Coach Wayne Breeden chose Greene.

“It wasn’t his night,” Breeden said. “Marty had killed us all night. I couldn’t give him the opportunity to put the dagger in us. It seemed like a reasonable risk.”

The ball had got into Thomas when he was suddenly blocked from going anywhere with defenders on three sides. He quickly flashed it out to Greene, who was about 15 feet away.

“I held the ball for what seemed like an hour,” Greene said.

Everything was on the line for the 90-94 Tomcats, who were facing elimination with a loss.

Thomas had done his part, breaking loose for 43 points on remarkable 17-for-24 shooting from the field. He was, in a word, unstoppable. Thomas had “promised” a Game 3, which meant a Game 2 victory. He also had 15 rebounds.

And he was about to find out if Greene was going to give him his first assist of the night.

Like the first game, this one played out tight from start to finish. There were 15 lead changes and 13 ties. The 95-99 Tomcats led by 13 points at 53-40 late in the first half and looked on the way to clinching the series. But the 90-94 Tomcats weren’t going down easily.

Coach Jeff Hall used his 2-2-1 press to get back in the game. He also devised a counter-attack to Breeden’s box-and-one on Thomas. Chris Estep was chasing Thomas again, but Hall had Rusty Gray and Stuart Smith form a two-man wall screen. Estep crashed through it on several occasions but got himself into foul trouble.

He had three fouls midway through the third quarter when he tried to break through the screens again and was called for foul. He complained to the referee who was quick on a technical foul and he was out of the game since it also counted as a personal foul.

“Rusty and Stuart gave Marty a chance to do his thing,” Hall said. “And it did it well.”

Like in the opening game of the series, the 95-99 Tomcats showed great balance with its “bigs” and some instant offense from Michael Lynch, who led them with 25 points. Kyle Umberger collected 15 points and nine rebounds, Tony Barrow scored 14, Chris Lynch 13 and Darrell Arbaugh 11.

On the other side, Nathan Kirk’s 18 points and 12 rebounds complemented the huge game from Thomas. Jason Strader had 11 points and 10 rebounds and twice picked the pocket of little brother Brian to make amends for the steal in Game 1.

“I told him I was going to get him,” Strader said. “You know what they say about paybacks.”

Rob Lynch’s shooting was way off, going 3-for-13, but he did pull down eight rebounds for the 90-94 Tomcats.

“Except for Marty and Nathan, not a great scoring night for us but our defense was much better,” Hall said.

Austin Young hit the only 3-pointer for the 90-94 Tomcats but it was a big one. It pulled them within 100-99 with 20 seconds to play. Robinson came up with the game’s biggest defensive play, taking a charge to give his team one last chance to stay alive.

Both teams called timeout to set the last-second strategy and everybody knew it had to involve Thomas.

“We were going to Marty but figured they were coming,” Hall said. “We flashed Smooth out in the corner and I told him to be ready and take the shot if you get it. A lot of guys who had a game like he’d had wouldn’t want the ball. But I looked into his eyes and they looked back at me with confidence. I was almost hoping they’d triple team Marty. OK, not really, but I felt good about Smooth shooting.”

They managed to force it inside to Thomas, but there was no way for him to shoot it and he wasn’t going to leave it to the referees for a bail-out call.

“Smooth got open, just like Coach said he would,” Thomas said.

Greene caught the pass, rolled the ball in his hands and shot the jumper like he’d done a thousand times before. It was a high-arching shot that was either going to be a perfect swish or bounce off the rim it had such trajectory….

Swish!

And that was it. The 90-94 Tomcats had won 101-100 to force Game 3 just as Thomas promised after Game 1.

“I told you there was going to be a Game 3!” Thomas yelled as teammates mobbed Greene in a dog pile at the foul line. “I told you!”

You might just call the celebration a Marty Party.

1990-1994 ASHLAND (101) – Strader 4-7 3-4 11, Young 2-4 0-0 5, R.Lynch 3-13 1-2 7, Kirk 7-16 4-6 18, Thomas 17-24 9-16 43, Greene 2-10 0-0 4, Keeton 1-2 0-0 2, Gray 2-3 0-0 4, Smith 1-2 3-5 5, Robinson 1-3 0-0 2, Salyers 0-1 0-0 0. FG: 40-85. FT: 20-32. 3FG: 1-9 (Young 1-3, R.Lynch 0-1, Kirk 0-2, Salyers 0-1). Rebounds: 46 (Young 1, R.Lynch 8, Kirk 12, Thomas 15, Greene 1, Keeton 2, Gray 1, Robinson 4, Salyers 1). Assists: 22 (J.Strader 10, R.Lynch 3, Kirk 3, Thomas 1, Gray 2, Smith 2, Robinson 1). PF: 24. Turnovers: 11.

1995-99 ASHLAND (100) – Tolbert 2-6 2-2 7, Estep 2-6 0-0 5, M.Lynch 8-22 7-8 25, Umberger 6-9 3-3 15, Arbaugh 4-9 2-4 11, C.Lynch 4-7 3-4 13, Barrow 5-6 2-2 14, Cooksey 1-3 0-0 2, Stakely 1-3 0-0 3, B.Strader 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 1-4 1-1 3. FG: 35-74. FT: 20-24. 3FG: 10-24 (Tolbert 1-4, Estep 1-3, M.ynch 2-6, Umberger 0-2, Arbaugh 1-1, C.Lynch 2-2, Barrow 2-2, Cooksey 0-1, Stakely 1-3). Rebounds: 42 (Tolbert 3, Estep 4, M.Lynch 3, Umberger 9, Arbaugh 3, C.Lynch 3, Barrow 5, Cooksey 2, Stakely 1, Strader 5, Johnson 4). Assists: 23 (Tolbert 7, Estep 2, M.Lynch 4, Umberger 2, Arbaugh 2, C.Lynch 5, Barrow 1). PF: 27. Turnovers: 10.

1990-94 ASHLAND    25         26         27         23      –          101

1995-99 ASHLAND    25         30         29         16       –         100

 

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