Shot of the century for MOC
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 10, 2004 2:00 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- The biggest shot in Mount Olive College men's basketball history fell in the hands of its All-American Monday evening.
And Marcus West delivered in thrilling fashion.
The senior threw an unbelievable 80-foot, line-drive shot that stripped the net as time expired, and lifted the Trojans past previously-unbeaten Pfeiffer University 108-105 in matchup of regionally- and nationally-ranked teams.
The Falcons entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the East Region and No. 3 in the latest NABC/Division II top 25 poll. Meanwhile, Mount Olive stood second in the region and christened its first-ever national ranking (20th) with a heart-stopping, scintillating victory before more than 600 fans on the College Hall hardwood.
"Our kids played their hearts out for probably 35 minutes of the game," Mount Olive head coach Bill Clingan said. "I can't say enough about the effort that they made tonight."
Mount Olive battled without starting guard Janson Greene, who sustained a broken foot last week. Clingan gave the starting nod to Maurice Horton, who responded with several key second-half baskets when it appeared Pfeiffer wanted to go on a game-breaking run.
Clingan admitted his team was leg-weary in the final four minutes due to the up-tempo pace from the Falcons. He entertained the thought of substituting, but opted to stay with the group he had on the floor. Although the Trojans made some "tired" mistakes, they worked through the adversity and pulled off the stunning upset.
Mount Olive (17-3, 11-2 CVAC) played an outstanding first half, averaging more than one point per possession en route to scoring a season-best 64 points. Pfeiffer was just as efficient with a one-point average of its own, but turnovers and its inability to rebound led to a 13-point deficit at intermission.
Still, this Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference affair had another 20 minutes to go.
"I told the guys at halftime we had a game to win, so let's go do it," Clingan said. "We knew Pfeiffer was going to make a run. That's a great basketball team with some phenomenal shooters, some great one-on-one penetrators, and they're coached well.
"We knew what kind of game we had in mind."
Pfeiffer refused to abandon its game plan as well.
The Falcons continued to attack the Trojans' variety of zone defenses. They extended the defense with good spacing in their offensive set. The guards pushed the ball inside to draw two or three defenders, which left the perimeter open for 3-point attempts.
Mount Olive's weariness showed in the final five minutes as several Falcons, especially Rico Grier, got loose for uncontested jumpers beyond the arc. They had trouble stepping back out to defend the 3-pointer and Grier made them pay dearly. A double-digit lead quickly dwindled and turned into a 105-104 deficit after Grier converted his third straight long-range jumper.
"Rico is unbelievable," Falcons coach Dave Davis said. "He's arguably the best player in the league and has certainly played like it most of the year which is the reason we came in here 19-0. He loaded us up on his back and did unbelievable things.
"Our whole plan the second half was to attack the basket, and we did a good job of that."
Holloway drained a free throw with 28 seconds left, tying the game at 105-105.
Pfeiffer (19-1, 12-1 CVAC) wanted the ball in Grier's hand for the last shot. Grier kept his dribble alive near midcourt and as the clock ticked under 10 seconds, he moved to the right side. A teammate's screen enabled Grier, who tallied a game-high 30 points, to get a good look from about 16 feet.
The potential game-winning shot rimmed out.
"I thought he may have gotten fouled on his last shot," Davis said. "There was a bump there, one that could have been called.
Johnny Galarza grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 1.8 seconds to play.
As the teams headed back onto the court, West noticed that Pfeiffer was giving the Trojans the short pass and taking away the baseball-stye throw downcourt. Victor Young inbounded the ball to West and the rest turned into a history-making moment.
Galarza was underneath the basket anticipating a possible tip-in. He ran back towards West and fell on top him after the ball stripped the cord as the final horn sounded.
"When they gave me the short pass, I wasn't thinking 'make it' but throw it and get ready for overtime," West said. "I don't know what to say, but thank God."
The Falcons, stunned from the ending, headed to the locker room. The officials scurried upstairs to watch a replay and when they signaled the final shot good, bedlam erupted on the court. Holloway picked West up and carried him toward the locker room as the Trojan fans cheered and applauded their approval.
"It was a matchup of the region's number one and number two teams, and it certainly played out that way, didn't it?" said Davis. "It was an unbelievable game with a terrific finish, but not in our favor."
It was another classic in the series history.
A reminder of the 1991 game between Pfeiffer and Mount Olive sits on the top shelf in Clingan's office. The Trojans stunned the Falcons, ranked No. 6 that season, by an 89-88 count at College Hall. Every player and coach from that team signed the game ball.
Now Clingan has a momento from the most-historic game in his career. Again, every player and coach signed the ball which signified an unbelievable contest that ended in unbelievable fashion.
"Don't pinch me because I want to make sure I don't wake up from a dream and know that that last basket didn't go in," a smiling Clingan said. "Maybe someone was looking down at us on this one."
It was the All-American, West, who put the Trojans on his wings and guided them to victory.
PFEIFFER UNIVERSITY (105)
Jay Rhoades 0 0 0-0 0, Damien Argrett 6 0 1-3 13, Anthony Williams 4 1 5-6 16, Rico Grier 5 4 8-8 30, Joe Easley 0 1 0-0 3, Ricky Buffaloe 0 2 0-0 6, DeMario Grier 0 1 4-7 7, Kenny Mickens 5 0 6-6 16, Lamont McKnight 0 2 0-0 6, Chad Casstevens 1 0 0-0 2, Tim Granold 0 2 0-0 6.
MOUNT OLIVE (108)
Sharome Holloway 8 0 4-5 20, Marcus West 7 1 5-7 22, Sean Barnett 2 0 1-2 5, Maurice Horton 4 1 5-8 16, Brad McDougald 0 1 2-4 5, Johnny Galarza 1 1 2-2 7, Victor Young 4 3 0-0 17, Elton Coffield 1 1 2-3 7, Elijah Rouse 2 0 -0 4, Chris Bartley 2 0 1-1 5.
Halftime -- Mount Olive 64, Pfeiffer 51. Three-point baskets -- Mount Olive 8-21 (West 1-2, Horton 1-4, McDougald 1-3, Galarza 1-2, Young 3-7, Coffield 1-3); Pfeiffer 13-31 (A. Williams 1-4, R. Grier 4-11, Easley 1-5, Buffaloe 2-2, D. Grier 1-2; McKnight 2-3; Granold 2-4). Rebounds -- Mount Olive 46 (Holloway 13), Pfeiffer 33 (Argrett, A. Williams 7). Assists -- Mount Olive 21 (Horton, Coffield 4), Pfeiffer 15 (R. Grier 9). Turnovers -- Mount Olive 20, Pfeiffer 14. Blocked shots -- Mount Olive 3 (Holloway 3). Steals -- Mount Olive 9 (Horton 3), Pfeiffer 9 (four with 2). Fouled out -- D. Grier, Mickens. Technicals -- Pfeiffer bench.
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