Shootin’ the Stars: The State Finals buzzer-beaters that stand the test of time
The months of February and March have long been fertile ground for the type of State Finals buzzer-beaters responsible for creating some of Indiana’s unforgettable moments on the hardwood.
In the past, we heard stories from those who were supposedly there. Some baskets tied the score, guaranteeing an overtime; others won the game in the most dramatic fashion possible.
Now, thanks to the power of YouTube, we can navigate our computer keyboard until, suddenly, we’re seated inside Hinkle Fieldhouse, Market Square Arena, Gainbridge Fieldhouse or wherever, soaking up history.
Since everyone and their brother knows about Bobby Plump of Milan in 1954, and how he and his teammates inspired the movie, “Hoosiers,” we’ll remove him from this conversation (sorry, Mr. Plump).
As a 1980 high school graduate, I’m proud two of the most goosebump-elevating shots occurred that very postseason roughly a month apart – and at the same MSA basket, no less:
February 1980: Southport’s girls trail Columbus East by two points with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals need to go full-court on the inbounds, which means point guard Amy Metheny motoring upcourt.
Metheny closes to within about eight feet of the goal, and the ball ricochets off a teammate, bouncing harmlessly, before picked up by a teammate, Laura Krieger. She instinctively flings a last-second attempt from the right wing and hits nothing but net.
Photo courtesy of Amy Metheny
The Cardinals go on to win in overtime, 67-63.
Forty-three years later, Southport hasn’t since been past a regional final. Columbus East, conversely, has since won three semistates, the last, ironically, at Southport Fieldhouse in 2007.
March 1980: With the score tied, 69-69, between Broad Ripple and Marion in a boys semifinal, one second on the clock and the Rockets needing to go the length of the court, overtime appears a certainty.
That was before senior guard and future Notre Dame and Oakland Raider football player Stacey Toran got his hands on the basketball. Toran banked in a 57-footer, touching off a celebration inside Market Square Arena that ranks among the loudest in the 26-year history of the building (1974-1999).
Toran chipped in 15 points that night to help Broad Ripple knock off previously unbeaten New Albany in the championship game, 73-66.
Sadly, Toran would die less than a decade later from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
March 1982: Plymouth trails Gary Roosevelt in the waning seconds of the boys state championship contest. Pilgrims guard Scott Skiles, unstoppable the entire season, buries a jumper from the right wing to send the game to OT.
Plymouth, guided by Skiles’ 39 points (pre-3-point shot), goes on to win, 75-74, in double-overtime, its lone State Finals appearance until the 2005 and 2007 squads make it in Class 3A.
March 1996: Inside the vastness of the RCA Dome, Ben Davis senior Jeff Poisel, unbothered by the uncustomary backdrop, delivers six 3-pointers and 20 points – including the game-winner at the horn from the right wing – to lead the Giants over New Albany, 57-54, in two overtimes.
March 2005: The Pilgrims lead the 3A final, 72-71, against Washington in overtime. It’s here Hatchets senior Luke Zeller catches the inbounds pass, dribbles once and swishes a trey from just inside the half-court stripe for a dramatic 74-72 victory.
Two years later, Plymouth’s drive home from Indianapolis proves far more enjoyable after a 72-61 defeat of Evansville Bosse in the 3A championship game.
Are these all the State Finals buzzer-beaters that deserve to be noticed? Not even close.
But they are the ones I witnessed with my own two eyes – yes, before YouTube – either on television or in person, which makes them special.