A streak of amazing finishes

February 16, 2009

by Aaron Schultz

An overtime win, followed by an overtime loss, capped off with a buzzer beater loss.

That was the three-game stretch over five days that the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Lakers boys’ basketball team endured last week.

In last week’s article concerning the Lakers’ win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Feb. 6 in overtime, head coach Chad Gagnon mentioned how it was nice for his team to be involved in a close game.

Well, I don’t think Gagnon had this in mind for the following two games.

After coming up with that big win over BBE in Central Minnesota Conference action, the Lakers faced off with a so-so Zimmerman team the following night (Feb. 7).

In that game, the Lakers needed some late heroics from senior Eddie Wessling to send it into overtime. Wessling nailed a 3-pointer near the end of regulation to tie the game up.

In overtime, the quickness of the Thunder was just too much, as they outscored HLWW 8-4 to come away with the win.

Two overtime games in two days, and I wasn’t there for the finish in either one.

Yes, I was at the BBE game, but missed the end. And I didn’t make it to HLWW for the Zimmerman game.

Alright, surely the Watertown-Mayer game Tuesday wouldn’t be close, as that seems like the luck I would have.

Despite my confidence in my bad luck, I figured I wouldn’t take any chances, and made sure to be at the second half of Tuesday’s game.

With that in mind, I headed up to Holy Trinity to start my night by catching a portion of the first half of the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity girls’ basketball game against Trinity.

After taking my photos, I turned off my camera, jumped in my car, and headed up to HLWW.

Walking in, I was delighted to see that the second half was just starting – perfect timing.

After talking to HLWW High School Principal Mike Day for a few minutes, and listening to him describe how close the first half was, I was excited to catch the entire second half.

Sure enough, the game was tight, and was a one-possession game throughout much of the second half.

As the game neared its conclusion, the Lakers had several chances to put a little more distance between themselves and the Royals.

However, a few missed free throws allowed Watertown-Mayer to stay within reach.

Senior Keith Diers, who just the night before was crowned sno-fest king, wasn’t one of those Lakers that had any problem making free throws.

Diers sank a pair of free throws late in the game (under a minute to play), that put his squad up by three points.

But the Royals are a tough team, one that looks better than their 10-7 record indicates, and they weren’t about to just roll over in the final minute and give HLWW the Section 5AA win.

Watertown-Mayer pushed the ball up the court, and after overloading the right side of the Laker zone, swung the ball around to an open Tyler Schmidt, a junior.

Schmidt had camped himself out on the weak side, behind the 3-point line.

After catching the pass, Schmidt launched the 3-point shot. The high-arcing shot hit nothing but net, tying the game.

Now, with about 15 seconds left to play, it looked like either the Lakers were going to win it with a last-second shot, or HLWW was in line for their third-straight overtime game.

The Lakers ran the clock down to under 10 seconds to play, spreading the floor, with senior Nash Faulk taking the ball on the top of the key.

Faulk drove to the basket, hounded by the Royals’ Zach Mochinski the whole way.

As Faulk put up the off-balanced shot, Mochinski was called for a foul.

The shot didn’t fall, but the foul sent Faulk to the line for two shots with six seconds to play.

To say that the Royal faithful in attendance, along with Watertown-Mayer head coach Bob Hennen weren’t happy about the foul call would be an understatement.

Hennen had a few words for the officials, as did the Watertown-Mayer crowd.

No matter, the officials weren’t going to change their minds.

Sure, that is a tough call to make, but from my vantage point along the baseline, it looked like a pretty clear foul to me.

Faulk calmly stepped to the line, and gave a fist pump after the first free throw went down. That was followed by him sinking the second foul shot, putting HLWW up by two.

With very little time left, about six seconds, the Royals needed to hurry if they were going to be able to get a last-second shot off.

Before I get into the final six seconds of action, I should mention that the Lakers had fouls to give, only being called for five at that point in the half.

So, as the Royals brought the ball up the court, it appeared that Faulk reached out in an attempt to foul.

Now, I couldn’t see it clearly, but either Faulk missed his getting the foul, or the referees missed the call.

Every person I’ve talked to has a different story.

Either way, what happened next can’t be debated.

After bringing the ball up court in a hurry, the Royals found Schmidt again, standing in the exact same spot where just minutes earlier he had tied the game with a three.

With Diers and Wessling heading to Schmidt, he put up the 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

Sure enough, the shot fell, giving the Royals the one-point win.

As the Lakers walked back to their bench in disbelief, the Royals stormed the floor, surrounding Schmidt.

OK, so the outcome wasn’t what all the Lakers fans would have liked, but it sure was an entertaining game.

March Madness, dare I say? Yes, it is still early in February, but if this past week is any indication of how the section playoffs are going to play out for the Lakers and the Royals in March, get ready.

I’m already getting the itch for playoff time, and games like Tuesday’s get me even more excited!