EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a series that looks back to the 10 best men’s basketball teams, coaches, games and players of the past decade.
By itself, the match of the second round class A tournament was very extraordinary. Mansfield rose from a 13-point deficit in the second quarter, Lebanese Catholics hit the ball pounding to force overtime and the Beavers issued their sixth win of the season that provided dramas like Shakespeare.
What really makes it memorable is the controversy surrounding the eight crucial seconds at the end of overtime. Since there is no better phrase, just call it this “Six-player Game.” Lebanon was led by two with 23 seconds left when it searched for inbounders for one of Beaver’s five teammates in court. Inbounders passed him and immediately became the sixth person.
Although three referees saw the action, a DVD replay showed six Lebanese players sharing the floor for about eight seconds when coaches and Mansfield fans protested and the players frantically tried to commit violations. Replays showed Beaver’s sixth sprint in the middle of the bench and sat down when Lebanon realized what was happening. Three seconds later, Patrick Cummings of Mansfield fouled Michael Wolfe who spent two free throws and sealed a 51-47 victory.
Mansfield should have fired a free throw. Had the referee noticed that Lebanon had six players on the field for eight seconds, there would have been a technical violation and Mansfield would have had two shots and a dirty ball. Tigers will send 82 percent of rotten shooters Luke Berguson to the phone. He might have made them, missed one or missed both. Who knows? Who knows what will happen to Mansfield’s next possession too? However, a ban on blatant violations was a terrible way for Mansfield to end the district championship season.
To his credit, Mansfield coach Kipper Burleigh did not blame the referee for the results of the match afterwards, but to this day, everyone who participates in the game is left wondering what would have happened had the right call been made.
“There were 1,920 seconds in one match and in 1,920 eight children played for Mansfield, at least one of them missed a free throw, missed a layup, had a turnover, missed a loose ball, missed a close. If we do one of those things, we win the game and that’s why we lose, “ Burleigh said. “That’s what I told them to take from this. All the people will make excuses to lose and in my mind they are defeated in rules and that’s what I want them to take from this and give a lot of praise to Lebanese Catholics.”
The shame is that no call is remembered more than how great this game is. Mansfield has a team that is knowledgeable, deep and tough that season to win the second district championship in four seasons. The Tigers finished 23-5 and won 18 of 19 matches entering the Lebanon match, defeating rival Wellsboro for the NTL-West championship before winning three straight thrillers in the district against Lourdes, Sayre and defending champion Millville with 11 points combined. Berguson is the attacker of all countries, Jakob Nance is tough inside, Cale Correll stretches the defense, Marquis Delgago is a versatile threat at both ends and Cummings ignites a strong defense. On top of that, this is a hard-minded team that continues to draw hard-fought victories, ending the 61-50 first-round state tournament win against Pius X by surpassing the score 18-8 in the fourth quarter.
Mansfield showed his resilience again after Lebanon threatened to blow everything up, building a 17-4 advantage in the second quarter. The Tigers had lost in the second round the previous year and were determined not to let history repeat itself, pulling in seven at halftime and two entering the fourth quarter. Nance (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Berguson (17 points) gave Lebanon a match and the tough Berguson above and below the wheel gave Mansfield a 41-39 advantage with 22 seconds left.
Cummings almost made a steal at the last Beaver possession, but Lebanon guarded the ball and the two teams swapped timeouts with three seconds left. Lebanon then went on to play perfectly when Darius Zook received a lob and fired a shot down when time ended, forcing extra time.
“Mansfield made a good adjustment but he (Wolfe) made a good pass and got the ball to me where I had some space to separate and shoot and I just knew I had to put it down and hit it,” Zook said afterwards. “The coach then told us that we had been working too hard to lose now and we just came out and did what we needed to do. We do not want to go home. “
Mansfield also did not, but Nick Fortna scored eight straight Lebanese points and two big 3-point answered Mansfield after that tied the game and drew in one with successive possession. Jordan Derstine pulled Mansfield in 49-47 with 47 seconds left. Zook won an offensive rebound moments later, arranging a controversial settlement.
“Children don’t think they can lose in overtime. They are a formidable group,” Lebanese coach Scott Clentimack said after his team improved to 6-0 in extra time. “That’s how they have played tight throughout the year. That’s certainly not a coach. Children are those who have to play and they have been doing it all year long. “
Mansfield did it too and the seniors graduated with two district championships, four state tournament wins and a state quarterfinal appearance. A year later Mansfield returned to the district finals and state tournaments and has remained a perennial title contender ever since, producing 12 seasons of winning streak. This team certainly helps lay a strong foundation.
“They are dedicated and for most of their lives have worked very hard to achieve team goals and that will help them in life,” Burleigh said. “They will all be successful because they are high quality children.”
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