Sometimes, people ask me why I love to cover high school sports so much.
Tuesday, I say.
Not just any Tuesday.
Tuesday, Jan. 17.
In the span of five hours, I saw two games involving the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 teams in The Inquirer Top 10 -- plus another team that was as high as No. 4 recently and looks like it's coming back with a bullet -- play two great games that were decided by last-second shots.
Both shots brought fans streaming on the court in celebration.
Both endings left the seniors who had made the shots overwhelmed with emotion.
On Tuesday afternoon, CH East stunned No. 1 Eastern by a 60-58 score in overtime.
The Cougars controlled the game for much of the afternoon, but Eastern battled back behind juniors Devon Bell and Avery Walker and senior Steve Schneider and forced overtime. The Vikings even had possession in a 58-58 game with 0:20 on the clock.
Eastern got a clean look from the right corner but the shot kicked off the rim. CH East's reaction was remarkable -- Jake Gurkin grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Jesse Gold, who fired downcourt to Marc Schlessel for the game-winning layup as the buzzer sounded.
All in 4.5 seconds.
Schlessel's layup kicked off a wild celebration as around 100 CH East fans -- all dressed in red -- poured on the court. It says something about CH East that those kids made the trip to Eastern, chanted all game and really created a great atmosphere (Eastern had a nice crowd, too, with a vocal student section).
Student sections were chanting at each other big-time later Tuesday night at Paul VI. It was a capacity-plus crowd for No. 2 Bishop Eustace at No. 3 Paul VI.
PVI's student section was a couple hundred strong -- all in white T-shirts. BE brought a lot of fans, too.
It was a strange but great game. PVI controlled play behind senior guards Ron Curry and Kris O'Connor for 20 minutes, building a 45-26 lead with a trapping, full-court pressure defense. It looked over.
BE roared back behind senior guard Carson Puriefoy and senior forward Sho DaSilva. The Crusaders took the lead on Puriefoy's three-pointer with 1:03 on the clock.
It was 60-60 after Puriefoy made one of two free throws with 0:24 on the clock.
PVI held for the last shot, with Curry controlling the ball near halfcourt with Puriefoy on defense. That was totally fitting -- the two best point guards (maybe the two best players, period) in SJ squaring off in a 1-on-1 battle with the game on the line and close to 1,000 people on the edge of their seats.
Some BE people said Curry's foot touched the half-court line, which would have been a back-court violation. I couldn't see it clearly from my seat.
Curry drove to the right elbow, pumped as Puriefoy flew by, then jumped and hit an off-balanced shot from around 12-15 feet. It swished through with 0:03 on the clock.
After BE's desperation heave landed harmlessly, Curry and O'Connor started yelling at the BE student section (truth is, those BE kids were giving the PVI players the business during the game) and a couple hundred PVI kids raced on the court and all the way down to the other end to yell at the BE fans.
Fortunately, nobody threw a punch. Credit both sides for that. It was like there was an invisible line between them and nobody crossed it with anything more than words. They just jawed at each other for a little while, then it broke up.
BE and PVI will meet again.
So will CHE and Eastern.
Those four will have a time tough topping Super Tuesday. But the wonderful thing about high school sports is that they just might do it.
-- Phil Anastasia