By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
BETHANY — Jaden Hobbs is an absolute superstar and just a sophomore, but the brightest Goldbug should have had to win it in overtime.
Instead, with nothing less than Class 3A’s gold ball hanging in the balance, the officials let the worst call in the history of the game play out instead.
OK, maybe not ’72 Olympics bad, but if he was watching from above, Hank Iba had to have said something to himself like, “Yep, been there.”
Alva’s girls beat Washington 63-62 in the last semifinal Friday night at Southern Nazarene University when Hobbs was sent to the free throw line with no time remaining, ruled to have been fouled as she attempted to follow her own flailing miss.
The sports editor of this newspaper had already put his head down to chart Hobbs’ first shot in the sequence and even wondered what the big exhale was all about as the follow rimmed out.
Time had expired.
But at least one official thought otherwise and, seemingly taking his life in his hands, walked over to the scorers table to say, “21, red.”
Worse, nobody was exactly sure how Nevada Denton fouled Hobbs. Maybe the officials aren’t supposed to swallow their whistle at the buzzer, lest the mugging begin, but the group calling the action Friday night, a day before everything moved to the Big House, did not even huddle over the call, nor did it think to ask anybody at the scorer’s table what came first, the whistle or the buzzer.
That same sports editor has only been covering games for 21 years and never seen anything like it.
The injustice capped an amazing Alva comeback. The Goldbugs trailed 32-20 at the half and 57-52 as late as 2:32 remaining.
A day after netting 30 points against Verdigris, Hobbs went for 45 and may well have finished north of 50 if the right thing — overtime — had played out.
Instead, she finished the second half with 32 points that nobody disputed and one that even the Goldbug faithful have to know they did not deserve.
“The other coach told me it was a terrible call,” Washington’s Rocky Clarke said.
About the only good about it all is what Washington has coming back, which just happens to be its entire team minus senior reserves — and sometime assistant coaches — Ally Wells and Kelsey Clarke.
It is a team whose sophomores have lost one time, Friday, going back to the seventh grade, and whose freshmen and juniors have lost thrice since the seventh grade. It is also a team whose first seven in the rotation — Kelsey Johnson, Dagan Lampkin, Allison Wells, Kailee Orr, Brenna Busby, Nevada Denton, Malia Wilfong — do not put their head on their pillow until they’ve made at least 500 shots on their own time.
You wonder if that happens at Norman High, or Norman North, or, for crying out loud, the University of Oklahoma.
Hobbs stole the show against the Warriors, canning 10 of 18 shots and five of her last six from 3-point land, but Warrior sophomore Kelsey Johnson was terrific again, too, going for 21 and seven rebounds.
Are there two better about-to-be juniors in the state than the Goldbug and Warrior nobody had an answer for over two days at SNU?
If Washington had prevailed, the story might have been about how hard it would be today for Adair to shut down every Warrior threat, because after Johnson, Orr knocked down 19 points and Lampkin added 14.
Instead, Washington will have to wait a long offseason to lace them up again. Over that time, perhaps, the school will claim a second straight state fast-pitch crown with a softball team that overlaps with its basketball team in a big, big way.
Not that it would make up for what happened Friday in Bethany.
As the Warriors walked off the court, there were audible tears and Clarke, the longtime and ridiculously successful coach, looked like he didn’t know what to think, because that’s what you look like when impossibility strikes.
The players were still plenty affected about 10 minutes later when they exited the gym, while Clark was rightfully miffed, reporting than Goldbug coach Eric Smith thought about as much of the call as he did.
A young team, they’ll be back and better than ever next year. Of course, that and Friday night at SNU still add up to a great night of basketball, decided not by the players, but the men in stripes.
Follow me @clayhorning
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