12 (or so) Random Fantastic Finishes

I went to the Minnesota/Purdue college basketball game last night where the Gophers’ Blake Hoffarber went off for 26 points in the upset victory. I’m not a big Gopher basketball fan, so naturally, what I remember most about Hoffarber comes from his high school days (see #1 below).

He did serve as the inspiration for this list though. Everyone loves a wild finish. There have been billions of lists on the Internets about the best finishes of all-time. Without even seeing the lists, you can likely name most of the top ten. Flutie’s Hail Mary, the Music City Miracle, NC State’s buzzer beater over Houston, Christian Laettner’s shot over Kentucky, the Stanford/Cal play will all be there in some order.

I decided to take a different route. I picked 12 random, obscure, outrageous finishes that don’t show up on these lists. I immediately threw out all professional and most Division I college games. Some of these got fringe coverage as a SportsCenter Top Play, but you probably haven’t seen most of these before. Which means you’ll enjoy these plays. In no particular order:

#1. Blake Hoffarber sends the game into double overtime from his butt

The inspiration behind this list gets the #1 spot. Blake Hoffarber’s Hopkins team met Eastview in the 2005 Minnesota Class 4A State High School Basketball Championship. The teams were tied at 56 late in overtime when Eastview’s Darren Kent tipped in B.J. Viau’s missed layup to give the Lightning a 58-56 lead with 2.5 seconds left.

Hopkins threw the ball the length of the court towards several players near the baseline. Hoffarber fell to the ground in the scrum, but somehow found himself with the ball after it was tipped down. He fired a desperation shot towards the basket from his butt. It went in to send the game into double overtime. Hopkins went on to win 71-60 over the deflated Eastview squad.

#2. The greatest game in high school football history

This one is cheating a bit since it got national attention and even won a 1995 ESPY for Showstopper of the Year. It is still a high school semifinal game from 1994 though, so I’ll still count it as obscure.

12-0 state #2 Plano East met 12-0 state #3 Tyler John Tyler in the Class 5A Division II Region II semifinal. That doesn’t sound like a very important game, but these were two of the three best teams in Texas and the game was held at Texas Stadium, so I’m guessing it was a big deal at the time.

Plano East led 27-17 with 5:23 left but John Tyler had the ball at Plano’s 8-yard line. Plano stripped the ball from John Tyler quarterback Jeff Whitley and Marc Broyles scooped the ball up and returned it 90 yards to give John Tyler a seemingly insurmountable 34-17 lead. When John Tyler returned another fumble for a touchdown with 3:03 left to go up 41-17, it seemed safe to celebrate.

Then chaos ensued. Plano East suddenly was unstoppable. They quickly scored and recovered an onside kick.

And then they did it again.

And again.

Amazingly, Whitley hit Robert Woods for a 22-yard touchdown pass to put Plano East up 44-41 with 24 seconds left to give Plano East the improbable victory.

Or so they thought. John Tyler’s Roderick Dunn returned the ensuing kick 97 yards for a touchdown to give John Tyler a 48-44 win. Seventeen years later, I hope that the Plano kids are down to less than one nightmare a week.

#3. Eight points in seven tenths of a second

I refereed freshmen girls high school basketball for a season. You see some ridiculous things refereeing young women. This isn’t really a knock on girls’ basketball – it just is what it is. At that age, many of the girls have not played long enough to learn the game. I imagine small town girls’ basketball is a bit like that. There’s just not enough fundamental skills and athletic talent to go around. But it does lead to some fascinating outcomes. Here’s an example:

This came from the 2008 2A Oklahoma State High School Championship game between Pocola and Walters. Pocola hit a layup to take a 54-52 lead in the closing seconds and got the ball back, but could not run the clock out. Walters’ Vanessa Karpe nailed a three-pointer and was fouled with 0.7 seconds left on the clock. And then things got weird.

Walters’ bench players ran onto the court, thinking the game was over. The referee called a technical foul*, giving Pocola two free throws and the ball back. Karpe hit her free throw to give Walters a 56-54 lead. Pocola’s Lasea Been could only manage one of two free throws. That’s not so surprising, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so scared to shoot a free throw.

* For my thoughts on this, you should probably find my post “Oh, those power-hungry refs.”

Pocola had one last chance on the inbounds pass from half court and made it count – Callie Slate hit a long desperation three-pointer to give them a dramatic 58-56 victory.

#4. March Madness should be more like this

If an obscure college game is televised on CBS, but no one watches it, does it still count for this list? I vote yes, and since it’s my list, my vote counts. In 2007, Barton College and defending champion Winona State met for the Division II National Championship. Winona State found themselves up 74-67 in the closing seconds before Barton went on a frantic 10-1 over the last 38 seconds to steal a 77-75 victory on Anthony Atkinson’s layup at the buzzer.

Just two years later, Findlay and Cal Poly Pomona met in another thrilling Division II Championship. The two teams were tied at 53 in overtime when Findlay’s Tyler Evans took the inbounds pass with 2.4 seconds left, took two dribbles, and nailed a fadeaway three-pointer to give the Oilers the championship.

Don’t feel too bad for each losing team. Winona State and Cal Poly Ponoma both avenged their losses by winning the D-II title the following seasons.

#5. Play until the whistle

Westland John Glenn met Canton Plymouth in a late season Michigan high school football game in 2009. Trailing 28-27 with a few seconds remaining, John Glenn’s Ryan Perez lined up for a potential game-winning 33-yard field goal. It was blocked and Plymouth’s team ran off the field in celebration.

Only one problem for Plymouth. The whistle never blew. If the ball does not cross the line of scrimmage on a blocked kick, the kicking team can advance it. Neither team realized this, but only John Glenn stayed on the field. After an excruciatingly long three or four seconds of coaches screaming, John Glenn holder Tony Wilton picked up the ball and ran in for a touchdown to give John Glenn the improbable 33-28 victory.

One quick note: the referees could absolutely have blown it dead. The rules state that if neither team is attempting to advance or recover a live ball, the referees can blow the play dead. But they did not, so the play was still live and upholding the touchdown was the correct call.

#6. Stanford-Cal Part II

I’m not going to include the Stanford-Cal kick return on my list – everyone’s already seen that. Instead, you get this highlight from a Kentucky high school football game from last season.


Pleasure Ridge Park took a 41-34 lead over Butler on a touchdown with 1.8 seconds left on the clock. All they had to do was tackle the kick returner. They could not quite manage that, and several laterals and one “The Band is on the Field” moment later, Butler scored to pull within one.

Naturally, they went for the two-point conversion and the win. The video calls it gutsy, but come on: if you pull off some crazy magic and win a 10,000 to 1 shot, you absolutely have to let that ride. That’s just gambling 101.

#7. Six points in two seconds

In a 2005 regular season game, Chicago State found themselves down to conference rival Missouri-Kansas City 69-66 in the closing seconds. The Cougars’ leading scorer Tyler Weeden missed a wide open three but the rebound fell to teammate David Inabnit. The tightly covered Inabnit took six quick steps. The referees, mistaking Inabnit for Kobe Bryant, did not call travelling. He made the Kangaroos pay and drilled an off-balance three-pointer to tie the game at 69 with 1.9 seconds left.

The Kangaroos’ length of the court pass was tipped to Chicago State player and the coach’s son Kevin Jones Jr. Jones Jr. fired the ball from seventy feet and nailed it, giving the Cougars the 72-69 victory.

Two hilarious notes about this game. First, what Eastern European country did Chicago State get those jerseys from? They look like the Mighty Ducks’ uniforms before Mr. Ducksworth stepped in to fund new gear.

Second, Kevin Jones Jr. was at the heart of some insane turmoil with the Chicago State basketball team. Apparently Cougar player Cam-Ron Clay challenged Coach Jones Sr. to a fight in the locker room at halftime of a game. Jones Sr. immediately expelled him from the team. Sounds reasonable, but there was one minor problem for Jones Sr: they were playing in Milwaukee at the time. The team just left Clay there. Clay was frustrated, so he did what any sane person would do – he came back to campus and beat the living crap out of Jones Jr. Twice. All three eventually were forced to leave the Chicago State campus. Presumably, their pictures are on the walls of the CSU security office like the people who spit off the rides at Walt Disney World.

#8. A viral lesson on why you shouldn’t miss a free throw on purpose

This game actually took place back in 2005, but became a viral sensation just a couple years ago. Division III Gulliford and Randolph-Macon found themselves tied at 88 when a Randolph-Macon player was fouled with just 0.6 remaining on the clock. He nailed the first free throw and missed the second on purpose. Gulliford’s Jordan Snipes grabbed the rebound and did this:

The shot enough is amazing, but I think what really propelled this video to viral stardom is the reaction of Gulliford’s #42 in the play. First, he managed to duck just before the desperation shot would have hit him in the face. Then his “holy crap” reaction when the shot goes in is just plain awesome.

#9. High school Hail Marys

In the 2009 South Dakota Class 11B High School Football Championship, Winner and Tri-Valley were tied at 6 in the closing minutes. Tri-Valley had the ball around midfield and were driving with two minutes left until Winner’s Ted Wonnenberg intercepted the ball to set Winner up with one last chance in regulation. Winner coach Dan Aaker employed the rarely used “don’t really try to score and run the clock down to four seconds before trying a Hail Mary” strategy. It worked as Jayd Knodell caught Wonnenberg’s tipped pass and walked into the end zone to win the state championship 12-6.

A week later, Utah’s Juan Diego Catholic pulled off the same feat to win the Utah Class 3A High School Football Championship. Juan Diego trailed 10-6 with the ball at their own 20 with 45 seconds left. Quarterback Cody Stevenson drove the Soaring Eagle right down the field and won the game on a stunning 33-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Nix as time expired.

But you know how furious South Dakota gets when Utah tries to one-up them. In the Class 11B championship the very next year, Flandreau had the ball on the Mobridge-Pollock four-yard line with 18 seconds remaining down 27-21. The announcer – clearly skilled in the fine art of foreshadowing – proclaimed that “we may have another Youtube sensation on our hands.” On the next play, Flandreau’s Luke Gassman catches a tipped touchdown pass and Nic Behrens kicked the ensuing extra point to give Flandreau the dramatic 28-27 victory. Touché, South Dakota. Touché.

#10. Not one, but two Hail Marys

In this obscure 1985 game, Division III Illinois College led Principia College late in the game until Principia scored a touchdown to take a 20-15 lead with just 28 seconds to play. Illinois College used a solid kick return to set up an improbable tipped Hail Mary touchdown catch to give them a 22-20 lead with two seconds left. Principia fell on the ball after a short squib kick, leaving one second left on the clock. Unbelievably, Principia completed their own Hail Mary and prevailed 26-22 over the stunned Illinois College players.

I apologize for the long video, but it’s pretty funny in its own right. Although the game didn’t take place until 1985, I’m fairly certain the video was filmed in 1977.

#11. This is the game that never ends

On March 12, 2010, Quinnipiac and Union met in Game 1 of a best-of-3 ECAC Hockey first round series. Puck drop was at 7:07 pm. Three periods and five overtimes later, the game finally ended at 1:03 am on March 13.

Quinnipiac’s Jeremy Langlois tied the game at 2-2 just 1:12 into the second period. Neither team would score for the next 129 minutes of game time – longer than two full normal-length games. Quinnipiac mercifully won the game on Dan Holt’s goal 10:22 into the fifth overtime, breaking the previous record for longest NCAA game by over nine minutes.

The previous record? Yale’s 3-2 victory over Union in five overtimes in 2006. Apparently the Flying Dutchmen need to work on their conditioning.

Don’t feel too bad for Union though – they went on to win the next two games in the series to advance to the next round.

#12. These kids and their celebrations

William Paterson met Albertus Magnus in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Division III Basketball Tournament. William Paterson’s Gabriel Paul hit a short jumper with 1.6 seconds left and the Pioneer players began to celebrate.

Too soon. Albertus Magnus inbounded the ball to long distance shot specialist Byron Reeves, who promptly drained the three-quarters length shot to send Albertus Magnus to the second round (where they lost by 34 to DeSales).

How come we can’t get shots like that during March Madness? All I can figure is that it has to be some sort of conspiracy because of the work hours that would be lost to Youtube.

Bonus: Amazing hurdles comeback

In the 2008 Indiana District 4AA girls’ 110 meter hurdles, Deborah Jones needed to finish in the top four to qualify for the state tournament. After a late stumble on the third-to-last hurdle, her dreams looked to be shattered when Central Catholic’s Alexis Courage passed her for fourth place.

Jones refused to give in and picked up a head of steam as if from nowhere. Courage clipped the last two hurdles and Jones flew past her for a dramatic fourth place finish.

The finish proved huge. Jones went on to upset the field and win the first of three consecutive 110-meter hurdle state championships.

One Response to 12 (or so) Random Fantastic Finishes

  1. jhg says:

    I’ve always loved that last clip. Thanks for giving it context. I didn’t realize there was so much riding on that fourth place finish.

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