Sports

Definitely something to shout about

From the moment that Dr. James Naismith hammered a pair of peach baskets onto the wall of the Springfield (Mass.) YMCA and invented basketball in 1891, millions of kids have shared the same dream.

Whether it’s a gym in Georgia or a Pennsylvania playground, a beachfront California court or an Arizona alley, youngsters are out shooting baskets, counting down “5...4...3...2...1” and draining walk-off jumpers to win that imagined “big game” in front of cheering fans.

For a fortunate few such as Michael Jordan – and BHS senior Travis Guterson – it actually happens.

As Friday’s game against Cleveland came down to the frantic final second, Spartan senior Travis Guterson launched a desperation three-pointer. Time expired with the ball in the air, and it dropped through the hoop to climax an improbable 53-52 win.

Guterson and his exuberant teammates danced joyously together before being overwhelmed by scores of Spartan fans who spontaneously rushed from the stands and buried them.

They finally emerged unscathed from the pile, hurried into the locker room, then re-appeared and again were surrounded by fans. No one wanted to go home.

It didn’t matter that it was just the team’s sixth win of the season. It was the final time that the five Spartan seniors – teammates since the sixth grade – would ever be together in an organized basketball game.

They couldn’t have picked a better way to go out.

All five made a vital contribution to the final play. The Spartans wouldn’t even have been in a position to win if Teddy Picha hadn’t carried the team offensively, equaling his career high of 23 points.

Mike Botefuhr fouled an Eagle player immediately on an inbounds play to preserve a few extra moments and keep four full seconds showing on the clock. Simon Pollack pulled down the subsequent missed free throw attempt. Adam Brenneman took Pollack’s quick outlet pass and fired ahead to Guterson.

Taking the ball, Guterson flung up an off-balance prayer from just beyond the three-point arc even with the foul line as he fell off to his left.

The ball kissed off the backboard, caught the front lip of the basket, started to rim out, then – as if conscious of its destiny – dropped silently through the hoop.

The Spartan gym exploded as if the team had just won the state title.

Tough going

The Spartans were fortunate to even be in a position to win. After a 6-0 run to start the game, the Spartans fell behind 10-9, went ahead 11-10 with 10 seconds left on Picha’s ninth point of the quarter, then gave up three points in the final 2.7 seconds on a free throw and putback of a miss to trail 13-11.

Cleveland sank a trey to start the second quarter. Then, already into a one-and-one situation, they drained four free throws to go ahead 20-11.

Botefuhr went down soon afterward with an ankle injury, and moments later both Picha and Spencer Evans picked up their third fouls and had to sit.

Though the Spartans closed to within four points, the Eagles went on a 10-2 run in the final three minutes to go up 32-20 at the half.

Picha (11) and Brenneman (7) had all but two Bainbridge points as the rest of the team was just one of 15 from the field.

Cleveland had four treys to none for the Spartans, and was eight for 14 from the foul line compared to one of one for Bainbridge.

Though Botefuhr’s ankle recovered enough so that he could start the third quarter – “I had to play,” he said; “Nothing could keep me off the court” – the Spartans fell behind 38-25 before Guterson nailed a trey at 3:03 to reduce the margin to 10. Though Cleveland answered with a hoop, the Eagles went scoreless for the rest of the quarter.

In the meantime, the Spartans edged closer on a Pollack putback, Botefuhr jumper and Picha’s two free throws. Gaining possession with nearly a minute left, Cleveland played for the last shot. But they missed and fouled Guterson in the scramble for the rebound with 1.7 seconds remaining. He drained both to cut the margin to 40-36.

The Eagles sandwiched a pair of field goals around Pollack’s layin on a pass from Brenneman to take an early 44-38 lead in the fourth quarter, but Picha and Botefuhr sank successive treys to tie the score at 44-44 with six minutes left.

After a missed Bainbridge free throw, Cleveland scored six points while the Spartans turned the ball over several times to take a 50-44 lead with just over three minutes left.

But the Spartans wouldn’t quit. Botefuhr fed Picha and then Brenneman to bring the Spartans to 50-48 at 1:41.

After an Eagle charging foul, Guterson fed Pollack for the tying hoop, but the Spartans were late in getting back on defense and had to foul an Eagle player going for a layin. He sank both shots for a 52-50 lead with 39 seconds left.

After nearly losing the ball, the Spartans called a timeout. Then they did commit a turnover trying to pass inside and had to foul in desperation.

Cleveland missed the front half of a one-and-one with 7.3 seconds remaining, but Bainbridge couldn’t control the rebound as Cleveland forced a jump ball – and the possession arrow pointed in the Eagles’ direction.

Botefuhr pounced on the player who took the inbounds pass, putting him on the line with another one-and-one opportunity.

The Eagles went into a prevent defense, putting all four non-shooters at the half-court line.

That enabled Pollack to get a clean grip on the missed free throw and just enough time to work the ball downcourt.

“I screamed ‘Ball! Ball!’” said Brenneman. “I was thinking ‘shot,’ but two guys came up toward me. Then I saw Travis.”

“I just launched it,” said Guterson. “I couldn’t hit an open shot all night. How that one went in I’ll never know.”

Afterglow

Relaxing in the stands after the game, the five seniors had several rapid-fire responses to the factors that kept them in the game: “Coach.” “Heart.” “The last game on our court.” “The crowd.”

Picha emphasized the home court advantage. “It was an amazing crowd. It was like a wall of noise. That helped on all their free throws.”

Cleveland was three of eight from the foul line in the second half and shot just eight of 30 from the field. The Spartans, on the other hand, warmed up to 12 of 18 from the field, including four of five three-pointers.

Besides Picha’s 23 points, Brenneman had nine, Guterson eight, Pollack six, Botefuhr five and Joe Picha two. Pollack, in his most extended action all season – the five seniors played virtually the entire second half – pulled down nine rebounds in an impressive performance, while Brenneman had seven and Picha six.

“The guys responded in a real positive way in the second half,” said coach Scott Orness. “They came out expecting to win and played for each other. In the first half, it seemed like everybody was trying to win it himself.”

Of Guterson’s shot heard ‘round the island, Orness said, “I’m glad it happened to him. I truly believe he’s the heart of the team with his intensity and work ethic.

“What a great way to go out.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 29 edition online now. Browse the archives.