COLUMBUS - Their names were Jim and Jerry Gottschall. Mention them to any Libbey High fan from the mid-1960s and shoulders will slump and eyes will glass over. It is a haunting, or perhaps we should say haunted, look.
In the 1966 Class AA state championship game, Libbey took a 44-29 lead into the fourth quarter against Dayton Chaminade and then suffered a meltdown of monumental proportions. The Gottschall boys combined for 35 points that night and spearheaded a full-court press in the fourth quarter that left the Cowboys spindled, folded and mutilated en route to a 55-52 loss that is part of Ohio prep basketball lore.
Jim and Jerry Gottschall.
When they were done with the Cowboys in that long-ago game, it's possible that a
Libbey player disappeared into the tunnel at St. John Arena, leaned against the wall, buried his head in his hands and wept.
The names change. The
result, apparently, does not.
Anthony Hitchens and Ray Chambers. Those were yesterday's names. Forty-two years from now, Libbey fans of the present will still remember them and the look will be just as haunting.
When Hitchens and Chambers were done with the Cowboys in the Division II state title game, and while the rest of Libbey's shellshocked players, who were cruising early in the second half with a 16-point lead, stood numbly on the court accepting the runner-up trophy, Brad Burton disappeared into the tunnel at Value City Arena, collapsed onto the floor, his back against the wall, pulled his uniform up over his face and sobbed inconsolably.
Hitchens and Chambers combined for 47 points yesterday, including the final two. Two points at the buzzer that drove a dagger into the hearts of the Cowboys and their fans and gave Chillicothe a stunning 70-69 win and a championship in its first state tournament appearance in 78 years.
Good for the Cavaliers.
Bad for the Cowboys.
No, devastating for the
"You work for four years, and it's all gone in five seconds," lamented Libbey senior Julius Wells, who put the Cowboys on the brink of their first crown by calmly lacing two free throws for a 69-68 lead with 5.1 seconds left in overtime.
Five seconds that played out in what seemed like slow motion.
Libbey coach Leroy Bates picked his poison. The ball was going to the sneaky-quick Hitchens, all 14,498 in attendance knew that. Do you double team him, trying to deny him the ball, knowing that if you fail the back end of the defense could be badly outnumbered? Or do you defend the inbounds pass, concede that Hitchens will get the ball, offer token pressure to disrupt his dribble, pack the defense deep to keep the numbers in your favor while eliminating a layup, and if you lose to a long jump shot, well, so be it. Line up and shake hands.
"I thought we had to pick them up full court and make them work to get some time off the clock," Bates said. "That's the option we took."
Burton and Lance Jones, two of the Cowboys' best defenders, doubled Hitchens when the referee handed the ball to Chillicothe more than 90 feet from the basket. But one Cavalier set a screen that somehow took out both Libbey defenders as Hitchens broke for the ball.
"After that, we were forced to chase," Bates said. "[Hitchens] kept the ball, broke down our defense, guys were out of position, and "
And everyone kept waiting for Hitchens, who had already taken 27 shots and scored 24 points, to pull up for the jump shot that would decide things one way or another.
But as he broke past halfcourt virtually undefended and with just one Libbey defender, Wells, under the basket, Hitchens saw precious tenths of seconds still on the clock and Chambers breaking toward the basket from the left wing. Wells was in no man's land, had to make a decision, and the instant he stepped toward Hitchens as Chillicothe's guard reached the lane, the pass went to the 6-foot-7 Chambers, who laid it in the net as the horn sounded.
What options did Wells have?
"None," said Bates. "He had no help. Everybody else was watching. Those two-on-one breaks, the offense usually wins."
It was no different this time as the play unfolded in front of Libbey's 6-6 senior.
"It was horrible," Wells said. "I had to try to go for the foul, but Hitchens is so fast I couldn't get to him and he got the pass off. It's an awful feeling to lose like that. A jump shot would have been different. A layup at the buzzer? Man, it's heart-breaking."
So is Libbey's history in Columbus, one that includes a shot of its own at the final horn that rolled around the rim and wouldn't drop in the 1969 semifinals against Columbus East. The Cowboys have been here six times and old-timers will tell you they have been involved in some of the greatest state tournament games ever played. But that's small consolation when they keep handing you the consolation prize.
Jim and Jerry Gottschall. Anthony Hitchens and Ray Chambers.
The names change.
But heartbreak is heartbreak.