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Heartbreaker! Roland's Buzzer-Beater Nips Panthers 50-49
March 5, 2008 - It had been two years since Knightstown’s basketball team had won back-to-back games. Much to the disappointment of Panther fans, Eastern Hancock senior Robbie Roland made sure it would be a while longer.
Roland took an outlet pass from Caleb Kennedy with four seconds to play and drove nearly the length of the floor, hitting an uncontested lay-up a split-second before the buzzer that gave Eastern Hancock a 50-49 victory over the Panthers in the sectional semifinals Friday night.
Roland’s devastating blow came after Knightstown committed nine turnovers over the game’s final nine minutes, essentially giving away an 11-point lead and in all likelihood, the sectional title.
Eastern Hancock won the Sectional 42 championship the following night with a 61-52 win over an out-manned Union County team, 61-52.
The Panthers dominated the game in the first and third quarters, and the Royals did the same in the second and fourth frames. Knightstown out-scored Eastern Hancock 33-16 in the odd-numbers periods, while the Royals went on a 34-16 run during their dominance of the even quarters.
Neither team could decide who would take charge of this game because the momentum not only changed frequently, it occurred in dramatic fashion. The final decision wasn’t made until the game’s final seconds, when a senior stepped up and made it look surprisingly easy. Royal Coach Aaron Spalding could only hope there was enough time for Roland to do his thing.
“I remember thinking ‘I hope he can get there in time, and the ball goes in’. He did and it did,” Spalding said.
Knightstown lead by 11 points at 41-30 in the final seconds of the third quarter. A long three-pointer by Colton Kinnaman gave them that margin, the biggest of the game for either team, with a minute to pay in the quarter.
But the Panthers would commit nine turnovers over the game’s final nine minutes, hitting just two shots the rest of the way. The nine major mistakes, coupled with multiple misses from the field and four missed free throws down the stretch, highlighted the team’s youth and inexperience in big game situations.
“I had thought that by this time we should have been able to handle things a little better,” Panther coach John Howell said. “We just had too many turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch and those killed us.”
The Panthers had multiple opportunities to put this game away late. Eastern Hancock went on a 9-0 run to cut the Knightstown 11-point lead to 41-32. Brice Biehl scored off a great pass from Bryce Cole. Biehl converted an old-fashioned three-point play that made it 44-39 at the 4:04 mark.
After a Roland bucket, Kinnaman hit a pair of free throws and it was 46-41. Biehl and Roland traded free throws and Knightstown still led by five points at 47-42 with 1:38 to play. That’s when the Panthers turned the ball over two straight times, and Eastern Hancock got two key three-pointers and seized the momentum.
With a five-point lead and possession of the ball, Knightstown turned the ball over on a bad pass. Royal Jeff Cushing, who was just one-of-six from the field at the time, nailed a three-pointer that cut the lead to two points. The Panthers then turned the ball over for the eighth time in the quarter, opening up the door for the Royals. Smith hit another three-pointer with 30 seconds showing on the clock. The six-point swing gave Eastern Hancock its first lead since early in the third quarter.
Knightstown came right back and went inside to sophomore Zach Apollos. He scored on a nice move against Kennedy to put the Panthers up 49-48 with 16 seconds to play. Following a Royal miss, freshman Seth Apollos rebounded the ball and was fouled with 4.8 seconds on the clock.
The younger Apollos missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Kennedy grabbed the ball, flipping an outlet pass to Roland. The Royal senior took the ball near the three-point line and crossed half court, heading for the lane. Two Knightstown defenders were in the general area, but both backed off enough to allow Roland a free drive inside. His shot skipped softly off the glass and through the net a split-second before the horn sounded.
“At the end of the game you realize there were a variety of things you could have done differently,” Howell said. “I could have called a time out, but that would have allowed Eastern Hancock to set something up as well. That also could have iced Seth. We didn’t get back on defense to stop Roland and he just drove to the basket.
“But we had put ourselves in that position by getting out of our offense, and we stopped taking the ball inside. That’s what had been working for us and we just quit doing it. It was a very disappointing loss because I feel like we should be playing in the regional right now.
“We’re young and we made mistakes that young teams make. But I was very proud of our kids and what they did this season. We were so close to getting it done, and I know the kids realize they let this slip away. After the game they weren’t happy about that, so I’m confident that we’ve learned a lot from this loss.”
The loss ended Knightstown’s season at 9-14, an improvement of eight wins over last year’s 1-21 record. Although they lost 14 games, 11 of those setbacks were by 10 points or less and could have gone either direction.
Bryce Cole, Jordan Bearhope and Kyle Buckley are the lone seniors who will graduate this spring.
Eastern Hancock went on to win the Sectional 42 title, defeating Union County in the final 61-52. The Royals will play in the Regional Saturday morning against Lawrenceburg (20-3, ranked number eight).
Eastern Hancock (50)
Jeff Cushing 2-7 2-4 8, Dustin Smith 5-9 0-0 14, Caleb Kennedy 4-14 6-6 14, Robbie Roland 4-7 3-4 11, Jensen Maroska 1-9 0-2 3, Justin Maxwell 0-2 0-0 0, Jordan Wilson 0-4 0-1 0, Eric Buenger 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals: 16-52 11-17 50
Kelton Lane 4-5 0-0 8, Colton Kinnaman 2-6 2-2 8, Zach Apollos 6-11 0-0 12, Seth Apollos 2-5 0-1 4, Brice Biehl 1-7 2-6 4, Jordan Bearhope 0-2 0-0 0, Bryce Cole 2-6 6-7 10, Anthony Hibbert 0-2 0-0 0, Travis Titus 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Back 0-0 1-2 1, Kyle Buckley 0-0 2-2 2.
Totals: 17-46 13-20 49.
3-pointers: EH 6 (Smith 4, Cushing 2, Maroska); K 2 (Kinnaman 2)
Rebounds: EH 33 (Kennedy 14), K 21 (Z. Apollos 11, S. Apollos 10).
Turnovers: EH 17, K 19.
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