GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — As his players walked to midcourt to accept their runner-up awards, a despondent Long Island Lutheran boys basketball coach John Buck said with certainty, “I swore I had another timeout.”
And maybe he was right.
With the score tied and 8.3 seconds remaining, LuHi was stunned when it called a timeout and the referees and official scorers, even after a conference, indicated the Crusaders already had used their full allotment. A technical foul was called, awarding Archbishop Stepinac two free throws plus possession.
Alan Griffin hit the two technical free throws, R.J. Davis hit two more after Lutheran was forced to foul on the inbounds play and the Crusaders suffered a crushing 76-72 loss Friday night in a Federation Tournament of Champions Class AA semifinal at Cool Insuring Arena (formerly the Glens Falls Civic Center).
But after the game, Buck said, “I just rewatched the entire game to confirm. We took five timeouts, and our last timeout was with eight seconds left in a tie game. We were assessed a technical foul on our fifth timeout. I cannot accept that a book error takes a chance at a state title away from our players.
“My athletic director [Todd Huebner] and I are filing a letter of protest with the Federation. I don’t know if this something they can correct.”
Lutheran’s players and coaches stayed overnight in Glens Falls and planned to take a bus home on Saturday along with the girls team, which lost to Baldwin on Friday.
Stepinac (26-5), which made 25 of 26 free throws, will face South Shore in Saturday’s championship game.
“Our book had me having a timeout left and my four assistant coaches said the same thing,” Buck said immediately after the game, before watching the tape. “So my gut tells me I had one left. We had five and I didn’t take one in the first half and it didn’t feel like I took five in the second half. If this is the way we lose a Federation semifinal, that’s a shame.
“I’ll go home and watch the film, and if I discover I used my five timeouts, I’ll apologize to the team and admit I was wrong.”
It was an unsatisfying and confusing ending to a terrific game.
Lutheran (22-3) rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to take its first lead since the opening minutes, 69-68, on a bank shot by Donatas Kupsas (20 points) off an inside feed by Tyson Etienne (15 points, 10 assists) with 1:05 left. Esam Mostafa came off the bench to help the comeback with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
But freshman Adrian Griffin (14 points) hit a turnaround jumper in the lane to put Stepinac back on top with 39 seconds left. The Crusaders almost lost possession on a loose-ball tie-up, but the arrow favored them and they were rewarded when Kupsas drilled a huge left-wing three-pointer for a 72-70 advantage with 12.9 seconds left.
During its timeout, Stepinac set up a play for a game-winning three-pointer, according to coach Patrick Massaroni. But Tykei Greene (16 points, three steals), who played a marvelous second half, fouled Davis (27 points, including 14-for-14 from the foul line) on the perimeter as Stepinac was running the weave.
“We wanted to take away their three, but we got a little too aggressive on the foul,” Buck said.
After Davis tied it with 8.3 seconds left, the game went from intense to improbable. The Crusaders called a timeout thinking they had a chance to set up a game-winning shot. Instead, courtside officials said they already had used all five.
“This is different. I’ve never lost this way before. Those kids are crushed,” Buck said, pointing to the closed-door locker room. “It’s not anger. It’s confusion.”
Before watching the tape, Buck was asked which would be worse: If he found out it was a coaching-staff error or an official’s error.
“Good question. I don’t know how to answer it,” he said softly. “Right now I’m just numb.”