Some things just aren't meant to be. After a frantic run to a state championship appearance, Upper Arlington held a 52-49 lead with 4.9 seconds remaining.Inbounding the ball midway between half court and the three-point line, Lakewood St. Edward designed a play for its most unlikely three-point shooter, senior forward Marsalis Hamilton.
As Hamilton received the feed from sophomore forward Derek Funderburk, Hamilton launched a fadeaway three-pointer that will live on forever, crushing Upper Arlington's state championship dreams as the senior's attempt hit nothing but net as time expired.
Outscoring Upper Arlington 10-6 in the overtime period, St. Edward was nearly perfect from the free-throw line, shooting 6-of-7 at the charity stripe to close out the Golden Bears late, 62-58.
Led by Nichols' 26 points, St. Edward responded after a 6-0 Upper Arlington run midway through the fourth quarter gave the Golden Bears a 48-42 lead with 3:06 remaining.
As Funderburk had been the key for St. Edward late, the 6'9 sophomore's offensive rebound and three-point play cut the UA lead to 48-45 with 1:53 remaining.
Looking to cause an Upper Arlington turnover with a suffocating trap defense, St. Edward was forced to foul, putting senior UA guard Wes Davis at line with 52.2 seconds remaining.
As Davis' first free-throw attempt missed short on a crucial one-and-one, Funderburk was fouled on the other end by Upper Arlington star guard Kevin Vannatta. Funderburk showed the type of ice he had in his veins on Saturday, knocking down both attempts from the line to close the UA lead to 48-47 with 44 seconds remaining.
Fouling senior Upper Arlington point guard Danny Hummer on the following trip, Hummer's two free throws pushed the Golden Bear lead to 50-47 with 35.1 seconds remaining.
As senior St. Edward shooting guard Tony Vuyancih's driving score cut the Upper Arlington lead to 50-49 with 13.9 seconds remaining, Saturday's championship game took a turn for the completely unexpected.
Drawing up a genius inbounds play, Hummer dished to Vannatta on the same baseline, who then launched a perfect halfcourt heave to Hummer for a wide-open transition lay up, putting Upper Arlington adead 52-49 with just under 10 seconds remaining.
As St. Edward advanced the ball past halfcourt, the Eagles called a timeout with 4.9 seconds remaining and their season on the line. Hamilton's unlikely buzzer-beating three completely shifted momentum and completely took the wind out of the sails of a raucous Upper Arlington crowd.
Choosing to be extremely patient on the first possession of overtime, St. Edward would hold for more than two minutes, as a difficult floater from guard Malcolm Walters gave the Eagles a 54-52 lead with 1:50 remaining.
Hummer was fouled on the other end and converted both free throws to tie the game at 54 with 1:40 to go. On St. Edward's following possession, Funderburk came up huge once again. Securing a crucial offensive rebound, Funderburk was fouled underneath, knocking down both free throws to put St. Edward ahead for good, 56-54 with 55 seconds to go.
As Vannatta missed a three on the following possession, Vuyancih scored in transition off a dime feed from Nichols, widening St. Edward's lead to 58-54 with 33.6 seconds to go. After Vuyancih's transition score, Upper Arlington would not get closer than within two points, seemingly sucking the life out of a record Upper Arlington crowd.
Even on a night where Upper Arlington played a seemingly perfect game, St. Edward was even better. Shooting 63.2 percent in the second half and 66.7 percent in overtime, St. Edward's efficiency and resiliency late led the Eagles to their first state championship since 1998.
By the Numbers
Three-point field goals Hamilton had made before Saturday's game. It was one shot, one moment, and one memory that will live on forever in St. Edward history. After locking down the Golden Bears in overtime, St. Edward is the only team in Ohio's Division I to finish the 2013-14 season with a win.
Number of losses for both Lakewood St. Edward and Upper Arlington. As Upper Arlington had went since Dec. 13 without a loss, St. Edward ended a 26-game winning streak for the Golden Bears, thanks in large part to 26 points from Nichols and 61.5 percent shooting as a team. Upper Arlington's two losses both came on buzzer-beating threes at the end of regulation. On Dec. 13, Olentangy Liberty guard Law Jones hit a game-winning three as time expired to take down the Golden Bears 34-31, and on Saturday night, Hamilton's game-tying buzzer-beater gave St. Edward the momentum they needed to take control in overtime. As Nichols converted 11 field goals, the rest of the St. Edward team converted just TWO more than their talented junior small forward. St. Edward pulled down two more rebounds than Upper Arlington, while the Golden Bears committed two less turnovers than the Eagles.
Rebounds for Vannatta on Saturday. After pulling down a career-high 19 rebounds in a regional final win vs. Northland a week ago, Vannatta was limited around the basket vs. St. Edward. As the long and athletic Eagles locked down the paint, Upper Arlington was forced to adjust its offense to have a chance to take down St. Edward. As Upper Arlington looked to be on its way to a state title, a three-point play by Funderburk, and Hamilton's game-tying three were two plays that brought the Eagles back.
Check out some postgame audio from the St. Edward hero Nichols below:
Lakewood St. Edward (26-2)
Kipper Nichols: 26 points (11-15 FG), five rebounds.
Marsalis Hamilton: 11 points (5-6 FG), two rebounds, three assists.
Derek Funderburk: 9 points (2-3 FG), two rebounds.
Tony Vuyancih: 7 points (3-6 FG), two rebounds.
Malcolm Walters: 6 points (2-8 FG), three rebounds, two assists.
Mike Ryan: 3 points (1-1 FG), two rebounds.
Upper Arlington (27-2)
Kevin Vannatta: 15 points (6-16 FG), three rebounds, two assists.
Danny Hummer: 15 points (4-5 FG), three rebounds, two assists.
Wes Davis: 8 points (3-3 FG), two rebounds.
Logan Richter: 8 points (2-2 FG), five rebounds.
Michael McGovern: 6 points (2-2 FG)
Gabe Akins: 4 points (2-2 FG)
Harrison Heath: 2 points (1-3 FG)