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Walk-Off Madness

The history of walk-off shots in the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's basketball tournaments is extraordinarily well documented to the point where we're quite familiar with the likes of Christian Laettener's unbelievable shots for Duke against Connecticut and Kentucky, Tyus Edney's end-to-end dash for UCLA against Missouri, Charlotte Smith's 3-point buzzer beater that won a championship for North Carolina's women and now Kenton Paulino's amazing trifecta that enabled now-eliminated Texas to knock out West Virginia a few days ago.

Those who know me know that my affinity for basketball goes well beyond the Division I level to the Division III game, having been weaned on such during my collegiate years and though I rarely intermix my appreciations, I felt it would be worthwhile to do so here, right during the heart of tourney time. So, in brief, here's a small sample of historic and memorable walk-offs from "The Little Dance," as it was referred on a national TV network a week ago.

The Sherminator- The 2000 West Sectional championship game was a battle between Wisconsin league rivals Eau Claire and Stevens Point. Those who remember Bryce Drew's miracle shot for Valparaiso would probably appreciate the walk-off shot that won this epic clash. Stevens Point went ahead by a point with 2.5 seconds left, but Eau Claire was able to execute a miraculous play to win. Dave Mellenthin threw a baseball pass ahead to Eric Gardow who tipped it to Sherm Carstensen whose 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key was good for a walk-off winner and a trip to Salem, Va. for the national semis.

Bryan's Song- Speaking of 2000, the national semis that year between Calvin and Franklin & Marshall provided a heart-stopping finish. Calvin led for most of the last 15 minutes of the second half, but Franklin & Marshall was able to tie on a late tip-in. Calvin's freshman point guard, Bryan Foltice, in a rather gutsy move, told his teammates after the ensuing timeout that if he saw an opening, he was going to take advantage. The opening came when an F&M player went for the steal of Foltice's dribble and Foltice made him pay, draining a 10-foot floater in the lane for victory at the buzzer. Calvin went on to defeat UW-Eau Clair for the national title and walk-off supremacy.

Doubting Thomas- The final 30 seconds of the 2005 Sweet 16 game between Albion and John Carroll had to rate among the most amazing in the history of college basketball at any level. Albion led by seven with 75 seconds remaining and was still up four with just under half-a-minute left when all sorts of craziness occurred.

John Carroll scored eight points in a 22-second span, taking advantage of a couple of Albion mistakes to take a four-point lead in the final seconds. Albion's Mike Thomas drove the length of the floor for a layup with 3.6 seconds remaining and the Britons fouled almost immediately, trailing 79-77. John Carroll missed both free throws. Albion controlled the rebound, whipped the ball ahead to Thomas, who quickly flung a 35-footer over two defenders. The ball appeared to be going long, but banked in off glass and rim for a remarkable, 80-79, walk-off triumph.

On the Case- In the first round of the 2002 tournament, Case Western Reserve made the trip to Newburgh N.Y. to face Mount St. Mary. The game was close throughout and Mount St. Mary tied it late on a running shot. Case Western rushed the ball upcourt and missed a shot, which all but appeared to send the game into overtime. However, the officials determined that a timeout had been called with 1.2 seconds remaining. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Case's Jasmine Rowan flung a hail mary from the sideline and her prayer was answered via the bank shot, making the visiting Spartans walk-off winners.

Hope Spring Eternal- The 1990 women's championship game between Hope and St. John Fisher turned into a rout late, as visiting St. John Fisher reeled off 20 straight points to lead by 20 with 11 minutes remaining. Hope clawed back, though it still trailed by 13 with 4:15 remaining, then staged a remarkable rally. The Dutch, who won the 2006 crown as well, came all the way back to tie on a 3-pointer by Dina Disney with 13 seconds remaining. St. John Fisher turned the ball over, committing an offensive foul with five seconds remaining giving Hope a crack at a winning shot. Hope's inbounds pass got knocked away, and there was a scramble for a loose ball as whistle and buzzer sounded concurrently. After conferring, the officials deemed that St. John Fisher fouled, before the buzzer, but with no time showing on the clock. Disney went to the free throw line and made both. Though not a true "walk-off" championship win (St. John Fisher was allowed to inbound the ball), it's close enough that we'll count it for our purposes.

Anyways, enjoy the rest of the college basketball season, what little is left of it. We'll return to our regularly scheduled Metsblogging in the next day or two.

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