ASHLAND, Ky. – Even in simulation basketball (maybe especially?) strange things can happen.
Take the quarterfinal game between the 2000-04 Tomcats and the 1980-84 Tomcats in the Tomcat Shootout in a Tuesday matinee at Anderson gym.
It was billed as another “Battle of the Bigs” with Mark Sugalski and Jeff Tipton as the centerpieces for their respective teams. The two met during the season simulation series with Tipton’s 1980 team hanging on against Surgalski’s 2001 Tomcats.
This battle had some streaky extremes.
The 2000-04 Tomcats raced to an 18-point lead in the first half and the 1980-84 Tomcats had a 19-0 run in the second half.
And the game had only two lead changes!
So who wins after those kind of events?
Well, first off, both Surgalski and Tipton lived up to advance billing. Surgalski had 33 points and 14 rebounds and Tipton collected 18 points and 10 rebounds. They were titans inside with Tipton adding seven blocked shots to a stuffed stat line.
“Those guys battled in there, just like they did when we played them with the individual teams,” said 2000-04 coach Mike Flynn. “Those two guys are warriors, that’s all there is to it. They played above expectations.”
Surgalski and Arliss Beach, who scored 19 points, helped the 2000-04 Tomcats race out to a 41-23 lead after Derek Cooksey scored at the end of a fastbreak.
It looked like Doomsday for the 1980-84 Tomcats.
“I was worried about then,” said 1980-84 coach Ernie Simpson. “We couldn’t get a stop on defense. We’re not really a come-from-behind team. I knew if it (the lead) got into the twenties, we were in deep doo-doo.”
It wasn’t much better the rest of the half although the 80-84 Cats shaved a little and managed to trail only 55-40. But the 15-point deficit loomed large.
“I was sucking wind going into halftime,” Tipton said. “But we recovered a little bit and found some more gas.”
Greg McCauley, who scored 19, and Chuck Cantrell and Doug Smith, who had 16 points apiece, came to life in the second half. But they were on the brink of losing when Beach went out after crashing hard to the floor on an attempted dunk. He missed and landed on a hip and had to be helped to the locker room.
However, his team carried on. Jeremy Howell scored on a drive down the lane to make it 75-61 with 2:53 remaining in the third quarter.
“We’d maintained that big lead from the first half and then it all came apart,” Flynn said.
Sure enough, the 2000-04 Tomcats had empty possession after empty possession including some close-in looks from Surgalski and Cantrell, who were a combined 19-for-46 shooting.
“It was literally like there was a lid on the basket,” Cantrell said. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”
Momentum swung during a 19-0 run for the 80-84 Cats that turned a 14-point deficit into a five-point lead at 80-75. They began to build on the margin and led by 98-89 with 4:19 remaining when McCauley was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer. The shot went in and he made the free throw to complete the four-point play.
Now it looked like Doomsday for the 2000-04 Tomcats.
“They were dead and buried,” Simpson said, “and we let them out of the grave.”
Three consecutive trips down the floor they fed it inside to Surgalski, who scored six points to cut the deficit to 98-95.
“That was the most important stretch of the game to keep us alive,” Flynn said.
But they still trailed. It was 102-99 after Greg Conley sank a pair of free throws with 1:19 to play. Adam Howard answered with a three-point play, driving inside and getting fouled on the arm by McCauley. He sank the free throw to tie the game at 102-102.
Only 59 seconds remained but neither team could regain the lead after two failed attempts each. With 25 seconds to play Beach, who had returned in the middle of the fourth quarter, came up with an open-court steal that gave the 2000-04 Cats a crack at a last-second shot.
Flynn called for a timeout and everybody knew it was going to Surgalski. When the teams broke huddles, Tipton and Cantrell lined up around Surgalski. Howell, who had eight assits, used a behind-the-back dribble to shed a defender and he lobbed it inside to Surgalski on the block. With nowhere to go, Surgalski saw Howard set up in the deep corner and he slipped a pass to him.
McCauley came off the baseline with hand outstretched as Howard caught the pass and rose to shoot. He had to put a little extra arc on the shot because of McCauley’s long reach. His shot went so high it looked like it might graze the roof at Anderson gym.
Everybody watched as the ball reached its peak and headed straight toward the basket for a perfect swish. It was the first time they led since surrendering the 19-0 run.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever had a team give up 19 straight points and then win,” Flynn said. “This simulation games have a little bit of everything.”
“Well, I think Adam’s shot might have drawn some rain, it was so high in the air,” Simpson said. “Great shot and a great game. I really like this team, but they will have their hands full against those 2020 guys. Nobody seems to be able to contain them.”
The semifinals are set for the Tomcat Shootout with the 1960-64 taking on the 1970-74 and the 2000-04 playing the 2015-20 teams.
2000-2004 ASHLAND (105) – Howell 2-5 0-0 4, Davis 5-9 3-3 13, Howard 4-12 1-3 10, Surgalski 13-29 7-10 33, Beach 7-15 5-10 19, Cooksey 2-7 0-0 4, J.Cook 2-5 0-0 4, C.Cook 1-5 0-0 2, Johnson 3-4 4-5 10, Salyers 2-5 1-1 5. FG: 41-96. FT: 21-32. 3FG: 2-14 (Davis 0-4, Howard 1-4, Cooksey 0-3, J.Cook 1-2, C.Cook 0-1). Rebound: 54 (Howell 2, Davis 12, Howard 6, Surgalski 14, Beach 5, Cooksey 2, J.Cook 1, C.Cook 4, Cooksey 4, Salyers 4). Assists: 24 (Howell 8, Davis 3, Howard 4, Surgalski 2, Beach 2, Cooksey 2, J.Cook 1, C.Cook 2). PF: 16. Turnovers: 18.
1980-1984 ASHLAND (102) – McCauley 6-19 4-4 19, Cantrell 6-17 1-2 16, Smith 7-10 2-2 16, Tipton 6-15 6-6 18, Farrow 1-2 2-2 5, Conley 1-4 6-6 8, Stewart 3-7 0-0 6, Scott 2-6 0-0 4, Webb 3-4 4-4 11, Daniels 0-2 0-0 0, Crank 0-1 0-0 0. FG: 35-87. FT: 25-26. 3FG: 7-18 (McCauley 3-7, Cantrell 3-8, Tipton 0-1, Webb 1-1, Crank 0-1). Rebounds: 48 (McCauley 7, Cantrell 3, Smith 8, Tipton 10, Farrow 2, Conley 5, Stewart 5, Scott 3, Webb 1, Daniels 4). Assists: 19 (McCauley 8, Smith 3, Tipton 1, Stewart 3, Scott 2, Daniels 2). PF: 24. Turnovers: 18.
2000-04 TOMCATS 27 28 20 30 – 105
1980-84 TOMCATS 17 23 28 34 – 102