By Jason Schock
For a second agonizing year in a row, the Bob Devaney Sports Center turned into a sort of house of horrors for the Falls City High boys’ basketball team, as another sensational season ended with another heartbreaking first-round overtime loss in another game the Tigers were within inches of winning.
Class C1 No. 7 FCHS, a substantial underdog to No. 2 Columbus Scotus coming into the day, were a bounce here and whistle there from upsetting the Shamrocks, but Scotus’ all-state guard Grant Lahm scored five of his game-high 21 points to open overtime and led his team to a 58-53 win.
The Tigers a year ago lost to Wahoo in OT after hitting what everyone in the building believed the game-winning shot with 1.5 seconds left in regulation. After another 1.2 seconds were added to the clock and a full-court pass ended up under, then inside, the opposite hoop, FC saw itself on the outside looking in on a miracle.
They say lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice, but March 2015 felt an awful lot like March 2014 Thursday afternoon in Lincoln. And it didn’t feel good. Not at all.
The Tigers, 23-4 on the season, got down by seven points, 28-21, the first minute of the second half, but fought back, eventually tying it at 34 on a three-point shot by season guard Weston Witt, then taking a one-point lead, 42-41, on a breakaway layup by senior Jordy Stoller with 5:58 to play in the game. Stoller, who finished with 20 points, truly turned in a game to remember. Asked to stick to Lahm, a “throw-back” player with seemingly unlimited range and a 25-point scoring average, like glue, Stoller held perhaps C1’s best player to six first-half points.
After Stoller’s shot gave the Tigers their first lead since it was 15-14 early in the second quarter, Scotus, 21-6 and likely in big trouble in tomorrow morning’s semifinal against defending champ Wahoo Neumann, quickly scored three to take a 44-42 lead with about four minutes remaining. FC senior Zach Jordening then tied it with 3:50 to play and a pair of Scotus free throws made it again a two-point game six seconds later. The final three minutes was a defensive struggle of wills. Just as the clock ran into the final minute, FC senior Jack Hartman delivered his own will, draining a jumper to knot it up. Scotus’ ensuing possession was thwarted by the Tigers and sophomore Kyle Leafty pulled down the board, giving FC the ball for a would-be game-winning possession. It had a chance to play out exactly like FC’s District Final win last week at Nebraska City, but along came the nightmare of 2014. Both Hartman and Witt, last week’s hero, who hit the game-winner inside of the final two seconds, drove the lane and appeared to be fouled on shot attempts, which would’ve given each an opportunity to win it at the line. Instead, the whistle never blew, even if the officiating – and the outcome – truly did.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” Coach Don Hogue said. “We’re just heartbroken.”
There’s really not much else to say.