Coming into their final game of the season, Omaha’s Finest found themselves in a must-win situation. Against the league’s best team. On the back half of a back-to-back. Omaha was tied in the standings with the Dallas Skyline at 11-12. But two prior losses to Dallas earlier in the season meant that Omaha needed to beat the Steve Francis-owned Houston PUSH. Not only that, they had to hope Dallas would fall to Enid on Sunday if they wanted to advance to the playoffs.
The Mighty, Mighty PUSH
Houston hadn’t lost since April 16, their only loss of the season. Omaha had pulled out a gutsy win in Little Rock the previous afternoon to give themselves a fighting chance at making the postseason. With just over six minutes to play in the fourth and Omaha leading 100-91, Houston’s Tyronne Jordan drove hard to his right off a hesitation at the top of the key and poured in a finger roll while drawing a foul. Jordan would complete the 3-point play to draw the PUSH to within two possessions.
The teams would trade empty trips down the court until Houston’s Ruston Hayward scored on a fast break put-back to draw the visitor even closer at 100-96. But Omaha wasn’t in the mood to fold and let the mighty PUSH steamroll their way to a comeback so easily as Devin Patterson knocked down a three from the left corner to extend the lead to seven.
A Lead Evaporates Late
With the clock now ticking under five minutes, Houston made a number of substitutions hoping that fresher legs might win the day. On their next possession the maneuver paid off as they got three opportunities at the basket, resulting in a wing three from Tyree Crump. Omaha now led 103-99, and the next few minutes would include a series of fouls, timeouts and stoppages of play. The home crowd in Omaha could was noticeably growing restless, hoping that the final minutes of the game would move quickly and they would see their Finest hang onto a slim lead.
But through the stilted action Omaha made twos while Houston hit threes, a pattern which eventually wound up in a tie game at 107 a piece. Adding to the crowd’s unease, just as the announcer called out “two minutes, two minutes,” Houston’s Darren Groves scored on a layup off a gorgeous feed at the end of a wonderfully designed play by coach Moochie Morris to give Houston a 109-107 lead.
Back and Forth They Go
Omaha’s Devonte Patterson would drive the line on their next possession and draw a foul on a soaring scoop shot that would go begging. The high man for the night, who would finish with 34 points, would split his two from the charity stripe, and as Houston took the ball out from the sideline after a timeout, they still lead by a point. Jordan would draw a controversial foul call on a wild shot and drain both free throws to extend Houston’s lead to 111-108. As a scramble for a loose ball on the other end wound up with a Houston fast-break, finished off by a Hayward two-handed slam, one could feel the air go out of the building as the Finest now trailed by two possessions, 113-108, with a minute to go.
With hopes of a postseason berth looking grim, Omaha’s KJ Scott inbounded the ball from the wing with a baseball pass to Romond Jenkins in the opposite corner. Scott would then sprint towards the ball, creating separation from his man, receive a short pass from Jenkins and nail a three-pointer to cut the Houston lead to two. Jenkins would proceed to make a fantastic defensive play on the other end, blocking Tyronne Jordan’s layup attempt and then grabbing the rebound before handing the ball to Crump who pushed the ball hard down the floor. Crump laid a pass off to Devonte Patterson at the three-point line and the team’s leading scorer once again game up big, knocking down the trey from the win to put the Finest back up by a point, 114-113. Houston immediately called timeout.
Norris once again drew up a beautiful inbounds play, which resulted in a wide open 19-footer for Alaine Moore to put Houston back in front. Nails were being bitten in the crowd as the clock showed 15.6 with Omaha inbounding from their own baseline. CJ Carter broke Houston’s light press in a matter of just a few dribbles, but looked headed for trouble as he barreled towards the corner. Fortunately for Carter, he was bailed out by an ill-advised reach-in on Hayward and headed to the line for two shots. 10.4 seconds remained.
Carter confidently swished the first.
Carter confidently swished the second.
Moore tried to take the ball coast-to-coast off the inbound for Houston but stumbled as he neared the Omaha bucket, turning the ball over, and the buzzer sounded alongside the elated cheers of a thrilled crowd in Omaha, whose team had not only mustered an extraordinary win over a Houston team with the league’s best record, but, as fate would have it, punched their ticket to the playoffs, as Dallas would lose the next night to Enid.
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Houston PUSH vs. Omaha’s Finest
Saturday, June 26, 2021
Peach Basket’s TBL Game of the Week
OMAHA SAVES THEIR BEST OMAHA SAVES THEIR BEST OMAHA SAVES THEIR BEST OMAHA SAVES THEIR BEST