Bob Seggerson: Reliving one of Kalida’s big shots in school history

There are a lot of great shots to choose from when examining Kalida’s rich history of basketball success, but for shear mind boggling, impossible feats, the finish of the 2008 sectional final between Kalida and Pandora Gilboa takes the cake.

My pick for Kalida High School’s greatest shot: February 26, 2008. Sectional final played at Bluffton High School. Jordan Basinger banks in the game winner from half-court at the buzzer for a dramatic one-point victory. But there is a lot more to the story than Jordan’s heroic buzzer beater.

There is a thin line between elation and crushing disappointment in athletics. In the arena of competition, humility is often waiting for you just around the corner. The photo accompanying this column appeared in the Delphos Herald the day after the game and is a great illustration of that dynamic. Jordan Basinger has just released the game winner that will thrust his name into Kalida Wildcat lore. But look closely at the P-G player, Josh Lee, lying prone of the floor looking up at the play. Josh had played a great game that night, leading the Rockets with 15 points. If Basinger’s shot had missed the mark, Lee could have been wearing a hero’s crown. Now look at P-G coach, Joe Braidic, standing on the sideline following the flight of the basketball. He must have felt some relief, knowing that Basinger’s shot had little chance of finding the mark. The Rockets had just scored what appeared to be the game winning shot with just 2 seconds left on the clock, and there was little reason to think they would not be celebrating in the next moment.

Kalida’s basketball program was in a rare stretch of tournament frustration in that decade and had not captured a sectional crown in the previous seven seasons. The Wildcat’s legendary mentor, Dick Kortokrax, who still reigns as the winningest coach in Ohio’s high school basketball history, was determined to change that scenario.

Their opponent that night, Pandora-Gilboa, was in a run of great talent and successful teams. Coached by Joe Braidic, the Rockets entered the game with 17 wins and had won the PCL crown with a perfect 7-0 record including a solid win against Kalida earlier that year.

Led by Josh Lee and Jordan Lehman, P-G entered the fourth quarter with five-point lead, 38-33. However, Kalida went on a 11-5 run and it was “game on.” The standing room only crowd at Bluffton High School gym was on its feet and at full throat as the game entered the tense closing moments. P-G’s Lehman made his bid for hero of the night by nailing two threes late in the game to tie it up at 50-50. The Rockets regained possession of the ball with twenty seconds on the clock and in a time-out, coach Bradic set up, what most believed, would be the final shot of the game.

PG’s point guard, Sam Maag, dribbled the clock down to five seconds, made his move into the paint and cleverly dropped the ball off to Lehman who put the ball in the basket with what appeared to be the winning score, sending the PG crowd into a frenzy.

But there was still 2.3 seconds left on the clock. Kalida had to go the full length of the court. It would take a miracle shot for Wildcats to pull off the win.

In the Kalida huddle, sophomore Jordan Basinger remembers a calm coach Kortokrax diagraming the play. Called “Homerun” by most teams, the play is designed to hit a teammate running deep after a pick

at half-court. “Coach K got out his white board and just sort of calmly diagramed the play,” Basinger recalls. “I was to set the pick near half court and was an option if the cutter was defended.”

PG chose not to put a defender on the player inbounding the pass which gave them one extra player to defend their half of the court. (I would have done the same)

Kalida’s Matt Warnecke was critical to the success of the play. He was the inbound passer and needed to thread a perfect pass through the defense. Warnecke read the defense correctly and when the cutter was picked up by PG’s defense, he found Basinger momentarily open at half court and delivered the pass on target. In the scramble, PG’s Josh Lee fell to the floor and was forced to view the drama lying flat on his back.

Basinger remembers, “When I caught the ball, I knew I only had a couple seconds so I turned, took a couple dribbles, and heaved the ball at the basket. I just wanted to give it a chance.” The ball travelled in a straight line at the basket, glanced off the bank-board and dropped through the net. It took everyone in the gym a jaw-dropping moment to confirm what they had just witnessed. Then the roof blew off. Kalida had their first sectional title in seven years.

In the moment, Basinger was not sure if time had expired. “The first thing I did was check the clock, because I was not sure if I got the shot off in time. I was kind of in disbelief,” he says. Disbelief became reality within seconds as Basinger watched the Kalida student section flood the gym floor and engulf him in celebration.

Although Kalida lost a week later in the district final to Wayne Trace (who made it to state that year), the Wildcats success in the tournament sparked a flame in the young squad that had a profound effect on their dreams and goals for the season to follow. Kalida returned all their starters and rode the momentum created by their previous post-season success to fashion a magical ride to the 2009 state championship game.

The spark that ignited their momentum was an improbable, game winning half-court shot that will never be forgotten by the Kalida or Pandora-Gilboa communities.

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