The Eagle’s Nest has seen its share of dramatic finishes over the years, but the one on Tuesday may rank as one of the best ever.
After appearing to have lost the game at the end of regulation on a circus shot by Calhoun’s Kaelen Riley from half court, Coosa picked themselves right back up after Riley’s shot was waved off and got a put back from Isaac Bradley with two seconds remaining in overtime for a 66-64 win.
The interesting (and confusing) turn of events at the end of regulation was because of an inadvertent whistle by one of the three officials. On the final possession of the fourth quarter, Calhoun had an errant pass bounce hard off the bottom of the backboard and ricochet to half court.
Riley then retrieved the loose ball and threw up a wild shot, which banked in as time expired. But before or during the shot, the official blew the whistle for what he thought was a backcourt violation.
After a long conference between the three officials, the basket was first ruled good, sending the Calhoun players, coaches and fans into a frenzy. Then after more discussion between the officials, the basket was waved off. The Jackets had another possession with .5 seconds left, but the shot missed the mark to force overtime.
“I heard the whistle,” said Coosa coach John McFather. “I never even saw the shot.
“There was definitely a whistle that stopped play so they got the call right. There was some kind of discrepancy, but it was ruled an inadvertent whistle.
“That gave us new life, and we stepped up and made the plays in overtime that we needed to.”
After trading baskets with Calhoun in the overtime period, Coosa’s Bradley put back a miss with two seconds to go for the game-winning basket.
Calhoun (13-4, 8-2) got a shot from just over half court after a timeout, but it was no good as the Eagles (13-7, 6-4) celebrated a big win.
It was the second night in a row Coosa had played an overtime game as they lost on Monday to Murray County, 67-62.
“We had a tough loss in overtime to Murray County, but we challenged our guys tonight to come out and play like champions and not let last night affect us tonight,” said McFather.
“Tonight, the kids refused to let this one get away. It really showed the character of our kids to get back up after getting knocked down.”
Bradley led the Eagles with a game-high 23 points, four of which came in overtime. Tavaris Wilson had 16, including four 3-pointers, and Christian McFather added 13.
“Isaac played huge for us tonight,” said John McFather. “He had a broken ankle earlier in the season so getting him back has been big for us. The last four or five games, he’s really gotten his confidence back and has been able to play like we know he’s capable of.”
Coosa looked to have the game in control early in the fourth quarter when they extended their lead to 11 points at 50-39. But the Jackets responded with a 20-2 run to take a seven-point lead of their own at 59-52.
The Eagles rallied to tied the game at 60-60 on a layup by Christian McFather just before the wild finish to regulation.
“It was a crazy sequence at the end, but we put ourselves in that situation with mental mistakes all night,” said Calhoun coach Vince Layson. “When you make mistakes like we did tonight, teams like Coosa will beat you.”
Riley finished with 20 points to lead the Jackets, 15 of those coming in the second half and overtime. Greyson Arnold and Austin Byrd added 11 apiece.
Despite the loss, Calhoun maintains a two-game lead in loss column in the region standings over Murray County, Dade County, Coosa and Model, which all have four losses in the region.
“Even though we have a little cushion, we don’t want to play complacent,” said Layson. “We haven’t locked anything up yet, and anyone can beat anyone in this region on a given night.
“I think one positive is maybe this loss will bring us back to reality a little and get our guys refocused.”
The game was the third time Coosa and Calhoun has met this season with the Jackets winning both of the previous meetings.
John McFather said his team needs to build from this win rather than rest on it.
“This region is very competitive, and any team can beat any other,” said McFather. “Tonight we played great defense and played harder. Hopefully, this will help us get some momentum going and be more consistent.
“Tonight, I think our guys saw that if you play as hard as you can and play with heart, you give yourself a chance to win.”
Coosa visits Model on Friday; Calhoun hosts Murray County.