When I first wrote this thing, which was last weekend as I thought that it would run on Wednesday, I was bragging about having just completed all my gift shopping prior to Christmas Eve, which is when I usually get it done.
Now, that seems like a dumb thing to boast about. "I acted like an adult and got my tasks done a few days ahead of time, rather than procrastinate!" It did make my Christmas a little less hectic than normal, which is always welcomed. With Christmas behind us, I just have to spend the next four days straight on the treadmill to burn off all of the food I ate over the 72-hour span from Sunday to Tuesday.
I can't remember the last time I wrote a heavy-handed column, or anything that wasn't a fun-with-numbers piece, but I'm certainly not going to get all political and serious on you now, at the height of the holidays, so here are some facts and figures I've been stewing on recently. Actually, it's just one figure, but it's a good one. Enjoy folks, and be safe this New Years.
60: That would be the approximate distance, in feet, that Aberdeen guard Anthony Bennett's last-second, desperation shot traveled before swishing through the net in C. Milton Wright's gym on Dec. 20. At the time, Bennett and the Eagles were trailing the host-team Mustangs, 56-54, after CMW's Mychal Stefanides had hit a double-pump bank shot with just over three seconds remaining in the game. With no timeouts, and needing a bucket just to force overtime, the Eagles quickly in bounded the ball to Bennett, who made it about a quarter of the way down the floor before tossing up a shot before the buzzer sounded. It went in without touching the rim, and the Eagles, their coaches and their fans stormed the court to celebrate the miraculous, 57-56, win.
Now, I've been to a lot of basketball games during my time at The Aegis, and, as I've written here a few times, if I were to put together a list of the 10 most exciting contests I've ever covered, at least six of them would be basketball games. I've seen post-season thrillers that came down to a single point, I witnessed a regional final that went to five overtimes (Edgewood vs. Easton, 2009 2A East title game), and I've been on the court for last-minute heroics in the state finals (the 2010 girls 3A championship game), but, never have I ever been to any game, regular or post-season, that was decided by a half-court shot. I've never even witnessed a player make a half-court shot, and I've seen a lot of attempts. Strangely enough, the closest anyone has come during a game I covered was at C. Milton Wright in 2009, when one of the Mustangs (Josh Keys, I think, but don't hold me to that) tossed a shot from behind the half-court line at the end of the second quarter, and it circled the rim once before kicking away from the basket. That try alone, which occurred during a run-of-the-mill, mid-season game, made everyone in the gym stand up, so I can't imagine what it was like to see Bennett's 60-foot, game-winner sail through the net. Sadly, I was not there, and I'm kicking myself for that.
I have seen a video of the event though, and after a few views I started noticing the CMW players walking off the court, hands on top of heads, looking down at their feet. I wondered: What do you say to your team after a loss like that? I have never coached basketball, but I would say this to the Mustangs: There's nothing you could have done about that. You played to win the game, and you can't defend against a 60-foot shot, so don't hang your heads. If I were in Aberdeen's locker room, I wouldn't say anything, but rather soak in the joy and madness of having just won a game on a shot that is going to miss 98 times out of 100.
As I've said a few times in the past weeks, boys basketball is no joke this season. There's been too many three-point, two-point and one-point games for it to be a fluke. When the end of the season rolls around, I'm betting the tops of some gyms get blown off. I'm hoping so anyway. Well done, fellas.