‘I thought it was good’: How Chaminade Julienne reacted to the last-second miss in a nail-biter D-II state semifinal

If you didn’t know where Chaminade Julienne’s final pass to try to win Friday morning’s state semifinal was going, you haven’t been paying attention. George Washington III has been the go-to player all season.

When CJ head coach Charlie Szabo gave his team the play in a timeout with 2 seconds to play, Washington got the call. Evan Dickey, the three-year starting senior Szabo trusted to get the ball to Washington, threw the pass from one end of the court to the top of the key on the other end.

Washington outleaped a defender, took on dribble to his right, spun and let an uncontested three-point shot go from the left wing. But the hopes of a Division II state championship for the first time since 1970 disappeared for CJ when Washington’s shot bounced off the back of the rim.

» PHOTOS: Chaminade Julienne drops Division II state basketball semifinal

Instead of the hometown team celebrating at UD Arena, Rocky River Lutheran West danced on the floor with a 56-54 victory to move into Sunday’s final at 10:45 a.m. against Akron Buchtel (22-6), a 60-50 winner over Columbus Bishop Ready (28-1).

Szabo put the ball in Washington’s hand all season when points were needed.

“We got here on his back,” Szabo said. “He made big play after big play after big play all year.”

Everyone had something to say about the last shot that would not have surprised anyone if it had been good and put the Eagles (26-3) into the final.

“I caught it a lot more open than I thought was going to,” said Washington, who scored 14 points in his final game before he goes to play for Michigan. “I saw No. 3, he’s a heck of an athlete, coming. I tried to just get to the outside of him to not give him the chance to tip the shot. It’s a shot I’ve seen go in a hundred times, and this just wasn’t one of them.”

Dickey moved around on the baseline looking for the perfect launch point.

“We don’t practice it that much, but I feel like I can get the ball to George whenever on the court,” said Dickey, who scored 13 points in his final CJ game. “It was a good pass, placed it perfectly. I’ve seen George hit that shot a million times, and as soon as it released his hand I thought it was good.”

Szabo, regardless of how disappointing the loss was, sat next to Dickey in the postgame interview area, smiled when Dickey finished describing the final play and brought a little levity to the situation: “You’re allowed to give credit to your coach who drew that play up.”

Everyone in the room laughed. Then Szabo recalled a play 10 years ago when he was an assistant coach. They ran the play to tie Alter with two seconds left at Trent Arena and went on to win.

“It’s something that is in the back of your mind, and you’re scrambling with two seconds left,” he said. “You can only be so prepared.”

The same can be said for how to defend such a play when such a good player is on the receiving end.

“We’ve got everybody back here guarding him and he still catches the ball,” West coach Jordan Duke said. “I’m like, ‘There’s no way,’ and I’m leaning to make sure it goes out. And we’re just blessed for him to miss it. It’s a miss or make game and he missed the last one and we made the last one.”

The final score came down to the final shot, but CJ was left to think about all the other things it didn’t do well enough. In the fourth quarter, the culprits were 2-of-5 free throw shooting and a crucial turnover that led to West points. Throughout the game, however, the problem was allowing West too many offensive rebounds.

The Longhorns grabbed 11 of them and scored 16 points as a result. CJ scored only six such points.

CJ led most of the game and threatened several times to get the lead into double figures. But second-chance points kept coming at the right time for West. Matthew Meyer’s four offensive rebounds helped him score 16 points to complement the guard play and shooting of Jayson Levis, who scored 20 points.

“We didn’t give it our all on the rebounding,” Dickey said. “We were thinking about that next play, getting the point on the fast break, leaking out. All five of us weren’t rebounding. Our bigs were boxing out, Devin (Rakestraw) and Bryce (Johnson), but they can only do so much.”

For Szabo, the mantra of “Five Eagles to the glass” that worked all season was a glaring problem. He knows there were others, and he said he will see them when he re-watches the game.

“Oh, it’s a myriad of things and watching the tape I’ll be able to find quite a few,” he said. “But we didn’t rebound well, they got us in rotations where we had to help, we didn’t take care of the ball late, and we didn’t finish. I thought we gave them a lot of points.

“We weren’t nearly as tough as a team as we needed to be to bring home this victory.”

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