COLUMBUS — Consider the odds of a kid from your town earning a basketball scholarship to Ohio State, then defying the buzzer in the NCAA tournament with a play that would endure in school lore 45 years later.
For Findlay, it has happened twice.That’s how those who recall The Shot from 1968 believe The Shot from Sunday will be remembered.
Aaron Craft’s game-winning 3-pointer to lead the Buckeyes past Iowa State and into the Sweet 16 made the Liberty-Benton graduate part of a trinity of OSU players who saved the biggest shot of their careers for the biggest moment.
Findlay graduate Dave Sorenson was first with an awkwardly angled bank shot in OSU’s stunning 82-81 victory over Kentucky on its home court in the 1968 Elite Eight.
In a 2007 NCAA second-round game, Ron Lewis hit a long 3-point shot at the end of regulation against Xavier to send the game to overtime. The Buckeyes won 78-71 in OT and went on to reach the championship game, falling to Florida.
Now, Craft’s place in program history may be just as assured.
"It’s a very humbling experience," said Craft, whose swish with 0.5 seconds left gave the Buckeyes a 78-75 victory. "My teammates believe in me, and I was very fortunate to come through for them."
Watching from the stands at University of Dayton Arena, the star of the 1968 team, Bill Hosket, soon thought back to Sorenson.
"I was driving home from the game with my wife," Hosket said, "and she said, ‘That’s going to be remembered just like Dave’s shot.’"
He thinks she may be right, though Sorenson, who died of cancer at age 54 in 2002, set a high standard.
Few gave Ohio State any chance of advancing out of the Lexington regional and on to Los Angeles for the 1968 Final Four. OSU won a one-game playoff over Iowa to secure the Big Ten’s one bid to the 23-team national tournament while coach Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats, led by future Hall of Fame center Dan Issel, were ranked fifth nationally and playing before a mob of blue at Memorial Coliseum.
During warm-ups, Buckeyes point guard Denny Meadors recalled the Wildcats’ pep band playing "California, Here I Come."
"My parents told me in all the seats at Memorial Coliseum the travel agencies had put flyers for trips out to California," he said in a phone interview.
The Buckeyes played UK close, though, and trailed by only one in the final seconds. Coach Fred Taylor called a baseline inbounds play to free guard Steve Howell for the last shot. As with Craft’s jumper Sunday — a set designed for star forward Deshaun Thomas — the script detoured.
Howell could not shed his defender in the corner while Hosket, the inbounder, could barely see over the 6-foot-9 Issel. He had nowhere to go until, finally, Sorenson, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, broke free just wide of the hoop and an opening appeared.
"Issel dropped his hand to scream for a five-second call," Hosket said, "and I unloaded it to Dave."
Sorenson, who led the Buckeyes with 24 points, caught the ball at a near-impossible angle to put in his go-to bank shot. Yet he contorted his body and made it all the same, his 5-foot baseline shot off the backboard with three seconds left, giving OSU the improbable win.
Afterward, the arena fell silent while Rupp tore off the court and blew off the postgame press conference.
"The whole world fell in when Sorenson hit that shot," Issel said in the book Adolph Rupp: Kentucky’s Basketball Baron. "I think half of us already had our bags packed for California."
"We're probably the only team ever to win the regional and not get to cut down the nets," Hosket said. "When we went to the nets, the state policeman said, ’Son, those nets belong to the University of Kentucky.’ "
"So we didn’t get the nets, but we did get the game."
Ohio State lost to North Carolina in the Final Four before beating top-ranked Houston in the third-place game. But for those involved, the memories are only of a season for the ages. Meadors can still picture Sorenson — nicknamed "Sunshine" for his ceaseless smile — after The Shot.
"After he made it, we go back to our huddle, I looked at him, and he had the biggest smile he ever had on his face," he said of Sorenson, who returned to Findlay after a 10-year professional career. "I’ll never forget that moment."
As Craft has learned, not all shots are created equal.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.