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Published: Sunday, 3/16/2008

Libbey cheers turn to tears in the final second

Chillicothe's Anthony Hitchens gets to the basketball before Libbey's Brandon Ham yesterday at Value City Arena. Chillicothe's Anthony Hitchens gets to the basketball before Libbey's Brandon Ham yesterday at Value City Arena.

COLUMBUS - Holding back the tears was difficult for many seated in the Libbey section of Value City Arena yesterday afternoon.

A gut-wrenching last-second 70-69 overtime loss to Chillicothe left not only the Cowboys hurting and disappointed, it broke the hearts of many who traveled from Toledo to Columbus with hopes of witnessing the Cowboys make history.

"That's a heartbreaker, because in five seconds you went from the top of the mountain to the botton of the valley," said Michael Bates, who is the son of Libbey coach Leroy Bates. "I feel for my dad because he has put his heart and soul into Libbey basketball the past 17 years.

"But you've got to give credit to the Chillicothe kids."

Chillicothe guard Anthony Hitchens, who scored 24 points and dished out eight assists, and Ray Chambers, who finished with 23 points, were primarily responsible for Libbey's misery. With 5.1 seconds left in overtime, Hitchens dribbled past back-pedaling Libbey defenders and threw a bounce pass to Chambers, who scored on a layup just before time expired to give the Cavaliers a victory before 14,498 fans.

"That's the kind of stuff you see in the NCAA Finals when they show those 'One Shining Moment' replays," said Michael Bates, the coach at Columbus Africentric who was seated among the Libbey fans. "Those kind of plays live on forever. You just don't want to be on the wrong side of that kind of play."

Libbey juniors Jessica Williams and Secoya Washington stood the entire game in the front row of the Cowboys student-body section cheering on their classmates.

Both felt disappointment about the Cowboys not winning the state championship, but also felt pride about what the Cowboys (24-3) were able to accomplish this season.

"We're still winners in my eyes," Williams said. "We came a long way and we're still winners. We worked hard right down to the end. We never gave up. We hustled and we did good."

Washington agreed.

"We're still champions," Washington said. "There is no need for crying because somebody had to lose the game."

Ron and Sandra Miley wore Libbey shirts and sat near Libbey's bench. They made the trip with their grandsons to show support for the Cowboys.

"We're not happy about the way it ended but they played a great game," said Ron, whose wife, Sandra, is a secretary at Libbey. "We're happy to see them go as far as they did.

"It was a great game. It's a shame somebody had to lose, and it was us."

Erik Coch, who is Libbey assistant coach Thom West's stepson, cheered with his face painted in Libbey's school colors, royal blue and gold. He, like the rest of the large turnout of Libbey supporters, had hoped they would win the state championship.

"They played really hard and they did all they could do," said Coch, who is a sophomore at Northview.

- Donald Emmons

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