Palmer ought to try these abbreviated games more often.
In Wednesday’s second-half resumption of Friday night’s delayed game against Doherty, the Terrors overcame an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and won it 38-37 after CJ Moore’s 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining.
Moore’s shot was set up when Doherty understandably doubled Mark Johnson at the top of the key. Johnson, who scored a game-high 20 points, dished it to the unlikely hero.
“I just had a feeling they were going to try to double Mark up top,” said Moore, who was at least two steps beyond the 3-point line when he launched the winner. “So I was just trying to be a player and be ready to shoot it.”
Moore, a junior, spent the first 11 games of the season playing junior varsity before circumstances required his promotion.
“He’s filled in seamlessly,” Palmer coach Jimmy Grantz said. “To be willing to shoot that shot shows a lot about his heart.”
It was fitting that the shot came from an unexpected source, because nothing about this game felt normal.
There was no band, a relative smattering of fans compared to Friday’s packed house and, of course, just two quarters of basketball.
Still, it was Palmer vs. Doherty – the city’s Hatfields and McCoys.
Doherty’s student section showed up wearing surgical masks, a playful jab at the halftime powder-throwing incident that resulted in a slippery floor and a five-day delay in the action.
“This rivalry is always going to be alive, regardless of the circumstances,” said first-year Doherty coach James Lane, who had a celebrated multisport career at Palmer.
But in a year that neither team is likely memorialize with banners, this game also seemed like something of a dud. Doherty led 23-17 as play resumed and built the advantage to 34-23 early in the fourth quarter.
Palmer (4-11, 1-2 5A Metro) seemed destined for a ninth straight loss until Johnson found his touch, scoring 10 straight points. It was no wonder that the Doherty defense’s first instinct in the final seconds was to deny him another shot.
“It wasn’t a planned play,” said Johnson of his game-winning assist. “But I knew they’d be coming at me and someone would be open for a shot.”
Kevon Fielder led Doherty (5-10, 2-2) with 14 points.
Wilfred Romero gave himself a good look for the Spartans at the buzzer, but his 3-pointer bounced off the rim.
After the game, Grantz could only shake his head at the series of bizarre circumstances that led to the exciting finish.
“I’ve been playing and coaching for a long time and I’ve never had anything like it,” Grantz said. “I’m very proud of our guys, the way they stuck together. You know, we’ve had a tough stretch. It’s been a while since we’ve tasted this, and they’ve kept believing in each other and us as coaches. It was great. Weird, but great.”