At the start of the second half at Ban Johnson Arena Saturday, Marietta College had the ball, and Tyler Hammond lobbed an alley-oop to teammate Jason Humphrey in the low blocks.
Unfortunately, the timing was a little off, and no dunk resulted. In fact, the 6-foot-5 Humphrey ended up on the floor.
Hammond had better luck at the end of the game when he connected with Jacob Owens in the left corner. Catching the ball and shooting it almost in one motion, Owens drained his fifth three of the game to give the Pioneers a thrilling 64-61 triumph over Otterbein University.
Just prior to the game-winning shot, the score was tied 61-61 with 8.5 seconds remaining on the clock. MC had the ball at the far end of the floor, and it appeared that the contest could potentially go into overtime. At least, Otterbein was hoping it would.
But when play was resumed after an MC timeout, Pioneer post Kevin Knab inbounded the ball to Hammond, who raced up the court.
"It was just like we drew it up," said Marietta head coach Jon VanderWal of the final play of the game. "We just wanted to clear things out for Hammond, and obviously he likes to go to his left hand (Hammond is a southpaw.).
"They (Otterbein) were really trying to take that away, so we put two shooters in the corners, and said to him that if you can get to the rack, get to the rack. If you can't, kick it to one of those guys."
Flashback. One year ago almost to the day (Jan. 29, 2011) at the Rike Center in Westerville, Hammonds received a similar inbounds pass with the score tied 63-all and time winding down. Dick Reynolds remembered that game's finish like it was yesterday.
"It was very similar at our place last year," the Otterbein boss recalled. "He pulled up and hit one at the buzzer at our place last year. He kicked it this year."
Actually, Hammond really had no choice but to kick it. He was well-defended by the Cardinals.
"We focused on keeping him out of the paint as much as possible, but he got the ball to the kid, and the kid hit the shot," Reynolds said.
Interesting, Knab, MC's leading scorer on the season and third overall in the Ohio Athletic Conference, wasn't even in the play after he passed the ball in to Hammond.
"I had trouble finishing today and stuff," Knab said. "Tyler Hammond has done a great job for us at the end of games, whether he's finishing it or making plays for somebody else. He always seems to get a good look, so we put the ball in his hands."
Knab incidentally still finished with 15 points to share high-scoring honors with Owens.
Anyways, when Hammond crossed mid-court, Otterbein converged on him as if to say "Not this time." If the Pioneer guard had been dribbling on the right side of the floor instead of the left, freshman Brennan McKean was open in the right corner. Earlier this season, McKean scored 20 points against Otterbein.
But as it was....
"I thought Tyler made the right read," VanderWal said. "He made a great play. They swarmed him there and he kicked it, and I'm really proud of him for making that play. That's not an easy thing to do, especially when you've got a full head of steam going. And, then J.O. (Owens) stepped up and made a big shot."
Even though Owens got a good look at the basket, the shot was still contested by the Cardinals - but too late. The ball didn't swish, like it normally does when Owens shoots it, but it was a friendly rim, and dropped through.
"I came in early today and got some extra shots," Owens said. "I felt good. I felt confident. Coach (VanderWal) always tells me to shoot with confidence, and that's what I did today."
Did he ever.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at email@example.com