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Monday, September 15, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 3/24/2013

Pratt’s ugly shot was beautiful

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

COLUMBUS — It may not have been the worst shot in Ohio high school basketball history, but it’s on the short list.

It was certainly among the uglier ones.

And it came at about the most inopportune moment.

And it went in the basket and the Rogers Rams got a lead and never trailed again and won 58-51 and will play tonight for a Division I state basketball championship.

Amazing, eh?

DeVonte Pratt had taken nine previous shots Friday and made one. There was no reason for the ball to be in his hands. There was no reason for him not to pass it off. There was … there was … there was, well, no doubt about it.

Pratt snapped a 50-50 tie with under one minute to play against Cincinnati Walnut Hills. He was double-teamed, dribbling to his right, the defense pushing and squeezing him farther from the lane, the baseline closing in on his progress, about 15 feet from the hoop, and then he was in the air, off-balanced, being fouled, the ball in one hand, the right one, way out away from his body, and he let it fly.

All net.

So, Tony Kynard, what did you think of that shot?

“I know he can make it, but I didn’t like the shot,” said Kynard, Rogers’ unstoppable force, who tallied 25 points. “He’s lucky he made it or I would have had some words for him.”

Kynard, of course, said all that with a smile.

Pratt had trouble keeping a straight face, too.

“I just put it up. I knew it was going in,” said the 6-foot-1 senior.

And coach Earl Morris?

“I got faith,” said the Rams’ boss.

Kynard played spectacularly as Walnut Hills, a big team with some quickness of its own, couldn’t begin to stay with him. But Pratt and Clemmye Owens, the others in Rogers’ three-guard rotation, were off their games.

Until, that is, the game was on the line. Then Pratt made a not-to-be-made shot. And Owens swished four straight free throws to ice it. And Tribune Dailey, whose blood and sweat was shed all night at the defensive end, jammed one through at the buzzer for the punctuation mark.

There was some justice served in Pratt making the go-ahead shot. Two years ago, when Rogers made its first-ever appearance in the state final four, Pratt could only sit on the bench and watch.

In the second game of the 2010-11 season, the then-sophomore went up for a dunk and had his legs cut out from under him. Given a split second to decide between landing on his face or his elbow, instinct made him try to break the fall with his arm. The arm neither appreciated it nor cooperated.

Pratt missed the rest of the season and could play no role in Rogers’ heart-breaking state semifinal loss to Dayton Thurgood Marshall.

“It was tough just watching,” he said. “I was glad my team made it down here, but we couldn’t finish. That’s why I wanted us to make it back so bad. It was unfinished business.”

The Rams came up two points short that night. And they needed two points this night, too.

So Pratt finished it with aplomb before 10,829 fans at the nightcap in the Schottenstein Center.

“I guess taking that shot says something about the faith I have in myself,” Pratt said. “I knew it was big. It meant a lot. The momentum turned, Clemmye made all his free throws and we won the game.

“Their guys bumped me. I practice shooting when I’m bumped in the air. I know how to angle it up. I made a lucky shot.

“No, wait, it wasn’t lucky. I don’t care what Tony says. I made a good shot.”

Heck, might as well call it what it was. A great shot.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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