When an asbestos problem at Walbrook High School closed the building and forced its students to share the facilities at Southwestern, the two schools did not meet on the basketball court. Yesterday, the two teams finally got together at Southwestern and produced a game that was both thrilling and ugly.
The thrill was provided by Walbrook guard Eric Carroll, whose free throw with no time remaining completed a three-point play and gave the No. 5 Warriors a 66-65 win over the No. 18 Sabres. The ugly came afterward, when the official who counted Carroll's basket was pelted with items by a group of people -- including several Southwestern players -- that surrounded him as he attempted to leave the court.
The referee involved was rushed out a back door and could not be reached for comment. Walbrook coach Gus Herrington said he didn't see the incident. Southwestern coach Terry Leverette said he didn't notice any of his players involved.
"I was trying to keep the [students] off of him," Leverette said of the crowd that rushed on the court after the game. "My kids were on the bench. I was trying to get the ref into the office."
The incident marred a game that was competitive, sloppy and exciting. Walbrook (10-5) was playing for the first time since Saturday's eight-point loss to nationally ranked Simon Gratz of Philadelphia, and Southwestern (7-7) was coming off this week's 100-73 loss to top-ranked Dunbar.
Making the most of its height advantage for much of the first half, Walbrook had its biggest lead at 37-28 on the way to a 37-30 halftime lead. But Southwestern's zone defense got the Sabres back in the game in the third quarter. They briefly took the lead, 47-46, after two free throws by sophomore guard Haywood Eaddy before Walbrook ended the quarter with a 6-2 run to enter the final period with a 52-49 lead.
A steal and layup by Southwestern's Deon Crawford put his team up, 56-54, early in the fourth quarter, and the teams played even until the final minute when Eaddy hit two free throws with 13.5 seconds left that gave his team a 65-62 lead.
But Walbrook forward Jermaine Porter (20 points) hit one of two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to pull the Warriors within 65-63. The Sabres then committed a turnover while inbounding the ball, giving Walbrook one last try with 4.7 seconds left.
What happened next is a matter of interpretation. Carroll grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled as he muscled in the miss. It appeared the shot came after the buzzer, and the timekeeper agreed. But the official said the basket was good. After the floor was cleared of fans from both schools who ran on the court, Carroll made the free throw.
"Pressure. I felt a lot of pressure, but I'm a pressure ballplayer so it really doesn't make a difference," Carroll said. "I have confidence and I'm able to make pressure free throws."
While Walbrook players and fans celebrated, the ugly scene with the official was unfolding in a corner of the gym. After order was finally restored, and the officials escorted out of a back door, the Southwestern team was left upset about the way the game ended.
"We want a reversal," said Leverette. "I never saw an official overrule a timekeeper. When the guy shot the first desperation shot, the clock went off. Then [Carroll] gets the rebound and scores. It was a matter of seconds, not split seconds."
It was just the latest frustrating loss for Southwestern, which entered the season unranked and then won its first seven games, moving up to No. 5. But since then the team has lost seven straight -- including yesterday's defeat.
"We had a chance to beat the No. 5 team, and we beat them," Leverette said. "They really wanted to win, and they were hungry. This is totally crazy."