Vince Lombardi once said, “Football is a game of inches, and inches make champions.” The Wildcats learned Thursday evening basketball is a game of milliseconds.
With .2 seconds remaining in the second overtime of ACU’s Lone Star Conference women’s quarterfinal matchup, Jamie Meyer scored – and the Wildcats were headed to the semifinals. The radio broadcast echoed a premature cry of “Abilene wins!” and the crowd erupted. Unfortunately, so did the ACU bench.
The Wildcats rushed the floor to celebrate with their star, and in a flash, jubilation changed to confusion and confusion to disbelief. NCAA rules state it is illegal to prevent the ball from reentering play with time remaining. In effect, the Wildcats were handed a delay of game penalty. Head Coach Shawna Lavender believes the officials made the correct call by assessing the technical foul.
“The rule clearly states that if there is time left on the clock, your bench can’t come onto the floor. Our kids got a little too excited too early,” Lavender said. “It’s a sad event to happen in a good game, and we all have to take responsibility. We had other opportunities to win.”
As a result of the infraction, UCO was awarded two free throws, and Jordan Stark sunk them both. The game was knotted up 99-99 and headed to a third overtime.
In the third overtime, Central Oklahoma outscored ACU 12-6, using momentum to outlast Abilene Christian in a 111-105 win.
The Wildcats’ loss is heartbreaking, more so because the ‘Cats had two solid chances to win the game. The Wildcats had possession at the end of regulation; Lavender called a timeout with 2.9 seconds left, but ACU was unable to get a shot off.
The loss was even more disappointing considering if the Wildcats had not rushed the court, it would have been nearly impossible for UCO to get a shot off with just .2 seconds left.
With 37 seconds left, UCO’s Alyssa Fuxa made two free throws to put UCO up 109-101, and it became painfully obvious the Bronchos were going to outlast the Wildcats.
Lavender said she was proud of her team’s effort in what ended up being a demoralizing loss.
“You can’t ask for any more effort than what we gave last night,” Lavender said. “Our girls poured their hearts into the game and left it all on the floor.”
ACU senior Jamie Meyer put in possibly the greatest performance of her career in her final game. Meyer broke the LSC postseason scoring record, pulling 44 points in the loss. Meyer also set the free throw record, making all 14 of her shots from the charity stripe.
“That’s what your big players do. They step up on the big stage,” Lavender said. “Jamie was unbelievable last night. I don’t know what to say. That was one of the best performances by an ACU player I’ve ever seen.”
The Wildcats’ season ended far earlier than they had planned. The Wildcats put in a solid performance, but even that won’t ease the pain of a heartbreaking, triple-overtime thriller.