Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hofstra 81, College of Bill Lawrence 78 (Or: Our Own Personal Jenkins)

Because multiple views of two of the greatest clutch shots we've ever seen are more important than a Scrubs photo. Yes. This is serious stuff.

The passing of time has a way of embellishing the truth. Home runs travel farther, more tackles are broken on the way to the goal line, the fish get bigger as each year goes by.

But sometimes, the truth is better than the legend, and no tall tale anyone can ever muster up will match what actually happened at Hofstra Arena last night, when a transcendent player carrying his team to a magical season saved his best—so far—for his next-to-last home game.

Charles Jenkins hit a flat-footed 3-pointer just before the regulation buzzer to send the game into overtime and then drained a 35-footer as time expired in overtime to lift the Flying Dutchmen to their latest description-defying comeback victory, an 81-78 thriller over the College of Bill Lawrence in front of 2,378 euphoric fans.

“That’s as good as I’ve ever seen,” Mo Cassara said. “To go to overtime—when we didn’t put ourselves in a position to win—to hit one to go to overtime and then hit another one in overtime is as good as I’ve ever seen.”

Especially not in practice. “We have a drill at the end of practice when we have walkthroughs called ‘win the game’ and I’ve never made the shot at the buzzer,” Jenkins said with a laugh.

“We put the whole rack of balls in the half-court and then I throw the ball out and blow the whistle and give every guy a chance and we don’t leave until somebody hits their last-second shot,” Cassara said.

“Coach always gives me a hard time—he throws it down to the other end and gives me two seconds to make a shot,” Jenkins said.

He had plenty of time on both his shots Tuesday and as a result the Dutchmen will have plenty of time, relatively speaking, before their first CAA Tournament game. The win, coupled with George Mason’s rout of VCU (yay! We love you George Mason—no, not really) and Drexel’s loss to UNC Wilmington, not only catapulted the Dutchmen into a three-way tie for second with VCU and Old Dominion but also assured the Dutchmen a first-round bye.

Only the hardiest of souls (raises hand) thought a bye was possible after the tumult of last spring, but the Dutchmen will be resting and relaxing Friday as their quarterfinal opponent (please, Lord Jenkins, don’t be William & Mary) grinds out a first round win.

“I wouldn’t put anything past this group,” Cassara said. “I wouldn’t put anything past them.”

Who would after all the Dutchmen did to win their seventh game in which they came back from a double-digit deficit? The Dutchmen were outscored 36-11 over the span of almost an entire half—16:41, to be exact, between taking a 15-3 lead at the first media timeout of the game and falling behind 39-26 less than 90 seconds into the second half.

The Dutchmen squandered five-point leads with less than two minutes to play in regulation and less than three minutes to go in overtime. They shot an uncharacteristically poor 63 percent from the free throw line (17-of-27), their worst performance since Dec. 18 at Manhattan. William & Mary, meanwhile, was a sizzling 12-of-25 from 3-point land and 20-of-22 from the free throw line, including 14-of-14 in the second half and overtime.

Just seven players saw the court for the Dutchmen and the starting five of Jenkins, Mike Moore, Brad Kelleher, David Imes and Greg Washington played all but five minutes in the second half and overtime. Yet despite frittering away multiple leads, the quintet was almost perfect—the Dutchmen didn’t commit a single turnover in the second half and overtime—and put up boxscore-busting numbers.

Jenkins finished with 28 points (his final basket gave him 2,402 career points), four assists and two overtime blocks. Moore opened the game with three straight 3-pointers and had 25 points and eight rebounds. Kelleher put together his best game yet with nine points, seven assists, a career-high six rebounds and just one turnover in a career-high 42 minutes. Imes had his fifth double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Washington had five blocks, two steals, five rebounds and four blocks—huge contributions from the forwards since the Dutchmen didn’t play another big man.

“This is probably the one team I’ve been around in all my years of playing and coaching—our best talent is we never give up,” Cassara said. “This group just never thinks they’re going to lose the game.”

Everyone else’s faith was wavering when William & Mary went on a 9-1 run—off a 3-pointer and six free throws—to take a 69-66 lead with just over six seconds to play. But Jenkins performed his first miracle after he took the in-bounds pass from Greg Washington and stared down Kyle Gaillard, who briefly dropped his arms. Jenkins took advantage of the opening and hit the 3-pointer from well beyond the arc and William & Mary’s last-ditch shot fell short of the rim.

“Me and Mike’s motto is ‘hand down, man down,’” Jenkins said. “Once he put his hand down, I got a good look at the basket.”

It didn’t seem as if the Dutchmen would need another buzzer-beater to hang on in overtime when they opened the extra session with a 5-0 run. But once again the Tribe—the best and peskiest 3-13 team I have ever seen anywhere, and that is in no way damning with faint praise—crawled back and took a 76-75 lead on Quinn McDowell’s 3-pointer with 1:08 left.

Then Jenkins went into superhuman mode. He drove on three William & Mary defenders and somehow hit the leaning layup to give the Dutchmen a 77-76 lead before he blocked Brandon Britt’s layup on the other end. Kelleher grabbed the rebound and was fouled but hit just one free throw. Yves Jules fouled McDowell streaking for a wide-open layup and McDowell hit both free throws with 4.5 seconds to play.

Imes inbounded the ball to Jenkins, who raced up court, pulled up at 35 feet and fired over the outstretched arms of McDowell with less than a second left. “I have four seconds to get up the court, which is a lifetime,” Jenkins said. “I got a good look at the basket and I made it.”

With the buzzer still echoing, the ball hit nothing but net as the Arena went from silent to ear-splittingly loud in a split second. Jenkins turned, raced to the opposite foul line and flexed his arms as his teammates mobbed him and half-carried him, half-followed him into the Lions Den, where he made his now-trademark Dutch Dive before he was engulfed by students.

“I think I want to signature that,” Jenkins said with a wide grin. “If anyone else does it, that’s going to be something that they took from me.”

Not likely anyone will ever again do what Jenkins did last night, or match what he has done over his first 122 career games, or come close to doing what we imagine he’ll do over his final—how many games does he have left? Six? Seven? Twelve?

Someday, somebody will hear or read our recollections of this Jenkins guy and wonder if our memories aren’t of the big fish variety, if those two buzzer-beating 3-pointers weren’t actually a couple of 18-footers with half a minute left in a game that had absolutely no bearing on anything.

But we’ll know better. We’ll know the truth. We saw it.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. College of Bill Lawrence, 2/15)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Mike Moore
1: Brad Kelleher

SEASON STANDINGS
Charles Jenkins 69
Mike Moore 35
Greg Washington 23
David Imes 16
Brad Kelleher 7
Shemiye McLendon 5
Dwan McMillan 5
Yves Jules 1
Stephen Nwaukoni 1

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

No comments: