John Helms Jr. makes a 3-pointer in the final moments of overtime to lift Liberty.
By Joe Scalzo
With less than 10 seconds left in overtime and his team trailing by one, Liberty High boys basketball coach Dan Bubon gathered his team during a timeout and called for four-low.
The play was designed for his point guard, senior John Helms Jr., to get the ball at the top of the key with his teammates arrayed at various points near the baseline.
“He told me to try to get to the basket,” said Helms.
Bubon figured the defense would collapse on Helms, allowing him to pass off. It didn’t work that way.
“He [Fitch’s defender] knew I was going to drive,” Helms said.
So, just behind the 3-point line, he took a hard dribble with his right hand and, with a hand in his face, let it fly.
“As soon as it came off my hand,” said Helms, “I knew it was in.”
Added Bubon, “He felt it, he made it. John is fearless, no doubt about that.”
Helms made it with just under three seconds left. Fitch had no timeouts left, but one of the officials thought he heard a Falcon call timeout, so after Fitch inbounded the ball, he blew his whistle to stop the clock with 0.6 seconds left. Thing was, no one called timeout, so they put 2.5 seconds left on the clock and gave Fitch the ball under Liberty’s basket.
(If this sounds crazy — and it was — then you’ll enjoy Bubon’s description: “It was an inadvertent timeout that wasn’t a timeout that was a timeout.”)
Fitch junior Jessie Driver, whose 3-pointer had given the Falcons the lead a few seconds earlier, got the ball just behind the half-court line, double-pumped in the air and threw up a shot that rimmed out at the buzzer. Final score: Liberty 55, Fitch 53.
“How entertaining was that?” Bubon said. “His kid makes a great shot, then our kid makes a great shot and then, after all the craziness happened, he almost made a half-court shot.
“We’re not boring.”
Cameron Clark led Liberty (3-1) with 14 points while Helms had 10 points and eight assists to help make up for his intentional foul with two minutes left in regulation. (Helms grabbed one of the Fitch players ankles as he was going for a loose ball. His explanation? “I was in a football stage there,” he said.)
Driver scored 28 with nine rebounds, five assists and three steals for Fitch (2-1).
“In my opinion, every time Jessie steps on the floor, he’s if not the best player, one of the top few,” said Fitch coach Brian Beany. “Jessie played a great first half; he pretty much was our scoring in the first half. And he almost banked in the game-winner.
“It was a good game. I guess if you’re gonna lose — the kid stepped back and hit a deep 3 almost at the buzzer. You know what? Give that kid credit. That’s a tough shot.”