Thursday, February 27, 2014

Let's All Collectively Process a 5OT Basketball Game

By now, you've heard what happened.

If you haven't heard, let me be the first one to tell you; the Columbia and Guilderland boys basketball teams played a FIVE overtime game in the Class AA semifinals at the Times Union Center on Wednesday night. Section II basketball chairman Mike Lilac said it was the longest game in Section II history.

Two and a half hours after the game had first tipped, the Dutchmen held on for the 102-100 victory. But that's not what I want to talk about (write about?) here. If you're looking for a 900 word recount of the actual game, you can click here for my game story.

Right now, I'd like to take a moment to talk about what it takes to play FIVE overtimes. That's 20 extra minutes of play. That's more than an extra half of basketball. Right now, I'd like to collectively process what I can say was, without a doubt, the greatest high school game I've ever covered.

Right now, I'd like to talk about why last night was awesome.
Let's start with Jahlil Nails. Now, Jahlil is a ridiculously talented kid who has had the season of his life this year. He owns the single-game scoring record for Columbia, tied the record for most three-pointers in the same game AND with his 41 points on Wednesday night broke the single-season scoring record for the Blue Devils. He is a junior.

But more than all of those incredibly well-deserved accolades, Nails showed one of the grittiest and gutsiest performances I've seen since I started covering high school sports three years ago. After what looked like a pretty nasty knee injury in the final seconds of the second OT, Nails sat out for the next eight minutes, but with the game on the line the junior standout returned to the game in the fifth round. He didn't score any points in those four minutes, but he came back in. He came in because as Columbia coach Jim Obermayer put it postgame every time Guilderland scored was "like a dagger" to him on the bench. That's awesome.

On the Guilderland side of things, it would be unfair to not acknowledge how calm and collected Bill Floyd was throughout the final four minutes of that game. Floyd connected on a deep three-point shot, his third of the game, from the baseline midway through the fifth overtime to give the Dutch a lead they would never surrender. He racked up 10 points in those four minutes, including seven-of-eight from the free throw line. For a Guilderleand team that was exhausted and actually finished 17-of-43 from the line, Floyd's presence of mind in those final few minutes kept the Dutchmen in the game. That's awesome.

Back to Columbia for a second. Elijah Lott may have ended his HS career on Wednesday night, but boy did he make a game of it. Lott had just two points in the first half but was a man on a mission over the next 36 minutes, finishing the game with 26 points, a game-high three steals and two big-time blocked shots including one that prevented a Guilderland game-winner at the end of the second overtime. Also important to note that Blue Devils' senior Justin Luther didn't leave the court once. He played every single second of that game. That's awesome.

Matt Cerutti, who missed all of last season, made up for it in the biggest way possible on Wednesday. The Guilderland forward poured in a team-high 29 points and pulled in a fairly ridiculous 26 rebounds, including 10 on offense. He was the driving force of the Dutch offense during regulation and played all five overtime periods with four fouls. That's awesome.

Columbia's Austin Miller had just four points in regulation but when Nails went down in the second OT, the Devils' guard stepped up in more ways than the team could have imagined. He connected on the game-tying three to force a third OT and posted a season-best 16 points, including two from behind the arc. Coming into the semifinal, Miller had scored 41 points all season. That's awesome.

By the final whistle, Guilderland had gone 40-for-83 from the floor and Columbia finished 39-for-96. The two teams combined for 12 blocked shots and Guilderland just edged out the Devils on rebounding 63 to 60. Only three players actually fouled out and 14 total players put points on the board.

As a reporter, it was the best game I've covered in the past three years. As a fan of basketball, it was the most exciting game I've watched in recent memory. As a human being, it's difficult for me to differentiate between the winners and losers.

That game was a battle. There's no other word for it. It was hard fought and I can't imagine that any player didn't give everything they had. I can't imagine playing in something like that. I can only guess what went through the collective minds of both teams when that final horn sounded, but I can say what went through mine.

That was awesome and I'm just glad I got to see it.


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