This is the third in a series of “Greatest Shots.”
They are my opinion of the most memorable baskets in the history of our area high schools. In time I hope to get around to all of them. The picks are purely subjective on my part and open for discussion or argument. Today we take a look at the Bulldogs.
March, 2009 - Elida vs. Toledo Libbey – District final – Bowling Green State University’s Anderson Arena
Reggie McAdams didn’t even hear the horn sound or see the ball go through the basket. He was sitting in the first row of seats where he had fallen after releasing his shot. Within a heartbeat, McAdams discovered exactly what had transpired.
Coach Denny Thompson was in his third year as head coach of the Bulldogs when he led them into the 2009 Division II sectional tournament at Ohio Northern University. Elida beat St. Marys in the semi and then faced Shawnee, for the third time that season, for the right to move on to district play. Bo Mathias and Reggie McAdams both scored 18 points in a win against the Indians.
In district play at BGSU, Elida, led by Desmond Rankin’s career high 22 points, knocked Napoleon out in the semi. In the final they faced a strong Toledo Libbey squad for the right to advance to the regionals. It would go down as one of the most exciting basketball games in Elida history.
Points came at a premium in the Elida-Libbey game and it was tied 43-43 at the end of regulation. In the overtime, with the score tied 47-47 and nine seconds remaining on the clock, Elida had the ball and called timeout. The game came down to a single play, one that is etched in the memory of Bulldog fans.
Anyone familiar with Elida basketball at that time probably had a pretty good idea what play coach Thompson was drawing up during the timeout. When he took over the program a few years earlier, Thompson put in an offense he referred to as “Swing.” “We had been running that play for three years,” remembers Bo Mathias. “Two shooters picked for each other on ball side block, then one went to weak side corner and the other tried to lose his defender coming off a double pick up the key.”
“I wanted to get the ball into Bo’s hands for the shot,” Thompson recalled. Mathias had a great game against Libbey, scoring 27 points, more than half of Elida’s total. The problem was Libbey knew that too and was not about to allow Mathias any opportunity to take the shot. What a lot of people missed about the game winning play was that Libbey defended it perfectly, but Elida’s precise execution was a step better.
An anatomy of the play reveals that Elida’s efficiency was the key to its success. In barely nine seconds, the Bulldogs were able to pass the ball four times and used five dribbles.
The play began with Reggie McAdams inbounding a pass to point guard Matt Thompson who took a couple dribbles allowing Mathias time to use the double pick to get open.
Once Mathias received the pass, he looked for his shot but was quickly double teamed by Libbey. He took one dribble and made the decision to call off his part of the play. “Their defense scrambled to the ball, I had nowhere to go,” Mathias recalled. Think about how important that decision was to the win that night. No one could have blamed Bo for forcing a shot or trying to draw a foul. Instead, he took one dribble, read the defense, and quickly passed the ball back to Matt Thompson.
Now it was Thompson’s turn to make a decision. He received the pass back from Mathias and immediately attacked off the dribble looking for a crease to the basket or hoping to draw contact. But Libbey was ready and double teamed him so he pulled up after only two dribbles. The clock was now dropping under four seconds and the volume of noise and the pressure of the moment did not distract Thompson. When he realized that the defender guarding McAdams in the corner was one of the players who double teamed him, Matt made the decision to call off his part of the play and executed the third option on the “Swing.”
Sitting in the left corner the entire time, observing the action, was a skinny, young 15-year old freshman who didn’t expect to be part of the play. Up to that point Reggie McAdams was 0 for 6 from the field that night. “I didn’t think there would be enough time for the ball to get around to me, so I just kind of ran to the left corner and watched the play,” McAdams remembered. “I thought I was the decoy.”
McAdams was shot ready and caught and released the ball in one quick motion. It wasn’t the first or last time he made a shot from the left corner. “Between games, practices and using the gun, I probably took over 100,000 shots from that spot in my playing days,” McAdams said. “That shot made all the practice ones I took worth it.”
Mathias, standing at the top of the key, knew upon the release that Reggie’s shot was a game winner. “I’d seen enough shots to know it was going in,” he said. “Halfway to the basket I began raising my arms to signal a 3-pointer.”
McAdams wasn’t sure if the shot counted or not. “I fell into someone’s lap in the first row and it was so loud, I never heard the buzzer sound,” McAdams recalled. But he was about to find out. When the ball slipped through the net, at the buzzer, it took about a millisecond for his teammates to sprint across the court and mob him. They were joined by a huge army of Elida students, sitting directly behind the basket, who poured out of the bleachers like a pyroclastic flow from a volcanic eruption.
My favorite part of the sequence was the reaction of Matt Thompson and Desmond Rankin who instinctively turned and headed back on defense, passing in the opposite direction of the crowd headed to bury McAdams. Warmed an old coach’s heart.
It’s worth your time to go to YouTube and search “Elida’s Big Shot Reggie McAdams” to see the play, the shot and the reaction.
For the record: My pick for the greatest shot in Elida history is Reggie McAdams’ buzzer beating basket in overtime that sent the Bulldogs to their first regional appearance in years.
Runner up: March, 1995. Sectional tournament at BGSU. Elida vs. Lima Senior. Marc Bishop hits winning shot at the buzzer against the Spartans in a game where the Bulldogs trailed by 16 at halftime.
Reach Bob Seggerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.