bc tops defiance
Last-second win over Defiance was one for the agesBy Tim Stried
February 14, 2002
|"That has to rank as the best game I've been a part of in my 13 years here at Bluffton College and in Founders Hall. I was very proud of our players. That's the kind of game that will stick with you for a lifetime, they'll be talking about that win for years to come."|
|Head Coach Guy Neal|
|Complete conversation with Guy Neal|
|Derek DeNero (#33) gets congratulated by teammate Brad Boyles after his game-winning
shot beat Defiance Wednesday night 106-103.
What makes a game qualify as "the best you've ever seen?" Bluffton College's thrilling 106-103 victory over Defiance College in Founders Hall on Wednesday night has already sparked that exact phrase enough times that it's time to examine the question.
No doubt some fans had already qualified the game among the best they've ever seen in Founders Hall even before junior Derek DeNero's game-winning shot hit nothing but the bottom of the net from more than 30 feet away, but when that buzzer-beater found its mark and the crowd erupted, the game's legacy was sealed.
"Awesome," said senior Rod Overmyer. "I don't know what else to say. It was unbelievable when Derek hit that shot. Everybody knew it was going to go in."
"I knew it was in," said DeNero. "It felt good when I released it and it was on the money."
That final shot unfolded after a Bluffton timeout with four seconds left in the game and the score tied at 103-103. BC's Mike Leimeister, who tied the game with a 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining, took a charge on Defiance's last possession, giving the ball back the Beavers under Defiance's basket.
DeNero threw the inbounds pass to point guard Marcus Bixler near mid-court, which was different than what the original play was called for by head coach Guy Neal during the timeout.
"The play was set up to go Leimeister on a long pass off a back pick," said DeNero, "but he was covered and Marcus was there, so I threw it to him and ran down the court and called for the ball."
"After it went in, I didn't know what to do," said DeNero, but the hundreds of BC students in attendance jumped off the stage and flooded the court to help him figure that part out. "I just turned around and all the students were already on the court all around us."
"It was just a great way to end it," said senior Kevin Grey. "All the fans and the fact that it was Defiance made it all the more special. Not too many players get to finish their last home game with the fans rushing the court."
Bluffton has had its share of games in Founders Hall decided by a shot at the final buzzer in recent years, but the last four such contests didn't end favorably for BC. Games against Mount St. Joseph (lost 87-85 on a 3-pointer on Jan. 27, 1999), Goshen (lost 87-85 on a 3-pointer on Feb. 20, 1997), Defiance (lost 85-83 on a jump shot on Jan. 10, 1996) and Manchester (lost 78-76 on a lay-up on Feb. 15, 1995) saw the Beavers come up just short in the final moments.
"I can't remember the last time Bluffton won a game like that," said Leimeister, who was covered when the final in-bounds play was evolving, but drew two Defiance defenders with him to the corner. "We've always had the buzzer beaters go against us."
The win over Defiance marked the fourth time in the past three seasons that the HCAC's top-ranked team has visited Founders Hall and gone home with a loss. BC first pulled off that feat on Jan. 19, 2000 with a 94-92 win over Franklin, then did it twice last season on back-to-back games as the Beavers defeated Manchester 94-87 on Jan. 10 and then upended Hanover 82-77 on Jan. 13.
Leimeister's defensive play on Defiance's last possession set the stage for another such victory. "I was keeping my eye on Viney (Defiance leading scorer Eric Viney), but when my man [Stuckmeyer] got the ball, he put his head down and started going to the basket. I jumped in front of him thinking that he would pull up for a shot, but he kept coming and I was there in position. I saw it all coming before it happened."
Leimeister had the same perspective on DeNero's game-winner. "I was covered, but when I saw Marcus pass the ball back to Derek, I knew he was going to hit the shot before he even took it. I ran towards the basket and looked up through the net and watched the ball go right through."
Leimeister finished the game with a career-high 34 points, which marks his fifth 30+ point game of his career. That total ties Ron Kalb for the fourth-most all-time (DuMonte scored at least 30 in 18 games).
The first half was nearly as incredible as how the game ended. The two teams combined for 118 points (BC led 61-57 at halftime) and combined to shoot 67% from the floor (Bluffton shot 66%, Defiance shot 68%). Bluffton was even hotter from 3-point land, hitting 82% of their trey attempts (9-for-11), with all nine 3-pointers coming in a span of eight minutes (15:07 to 7:05).
Bluffton has now won back-to-back games for the first time since December. The Beavers have won three of their last five games and will travel to Thomas More College on Saturday for a non-conference game against the Saints at 3:00 p.m. on WDOH 107.1 FM.
Bluffton will enter the HCAC tournament as the #7 seed next Tuesday night and will travel to Defiance, the #2 seed. Hanover claims the #1 seed and will host the tournament's final four Feb. 22 and 23.