The state high school basketball tournament has been defined by great teams, great players and great coaches. But it also has been defined by signature moments, usually a last-second shot that spelled the difference between victory and defeat.
None probably was more dramatic than sophomore Anthony Smedley's steal and game-winning shot in the closing seconds of the 1963 final that enabled Carver to upset top-ranked Centralia 53-52.
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Probably the most devastating finish happened the year before, in the closing seconds of the 1962 final in the last state championship game ever played in Huff Gym.
Remember when Michael Jordan made a 17-footer with 16 seconds left to give North Carolina a 63-62 lead over Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA championship game? The whole world was watching on network television.
On the ensuing possession, Georgetown's Fred Brown inexplicably threw the ball to North Carolina's James Worthy, clinching coach Dean Smith's first NCAA title.
That's exactly when happened in 1962 when Carver's Bruce Raickett, playing for a last shot with the game tied, inexplicably threw the ball to Decatur's Jimmy Hill. He threw the ball to teammate Ken Barnes, who was fouled with six seconds to play and proceeded to make one free throw for a 49-48 victory.
"The (Raickett) incident at the end was unfortunate," Carver coach Larry Hawkins said later. "We got thousands of letters from people who commiserated with him. We still talk about it from time to time. It was a growing experience. How can you forget it?"
"To this day, I don't think Bruce has recovered. It was a devastating experience," said Ken Maxey, one of the leaders of Carver's 1963 state championship team.
Maxey and Smedley were close friends. They were freshmen on Carver's frosh-soph team in 1961-62. Maxey was brought up to the varsity as a sophomore at the beginning of the 1962-63 season. Smedley was added to the roster for the state tournament.
In the state semifinal against Peoria Central, Smedley came off the bench in the closing seconds and swished a 25-footer at the buzzer to force overtime. Carver won 40-37.
In the championship game against top-ranked Centralia, Hawkins summoned Smedley off the bench with 15 seconds to play and Centralia leading 52-51. Smedley stole the ball from Centralia star Herb Williams on an out-of-bounds play, dribbled into the left corner and converted the game-winning basket with seven seconds left.
"The ball goes to Williams. (Joe) Allen is behind him and I'm at the side of him," Smedley recalled. "He is aware that Joe is behind him. He looks and turns and gets ready to pass. I hit up on the ball. I recall his eyes buckle and I snatched the ball.
"I was on the baseline about 17 feet from the basket, in the corner, in front of the (Carver) bench. I knew I had enough time. To me, it was automatic. I took one rhythm bounce and shot. I knew it was in, all net."
That's how Laird Smith must have felt in 1976 when he made the game-winning shot in Morgan Park's dramatic 45-44 victory over West Aurora. It featured one of the most dramatic comebacks in the 100-year history of the Illinois tournament.
Morgan Park trailed favored West Aurora by seven points with two minutes remaining. Then Levi Cobb took over. He hit a 25-footer. Then Cobb and Smith scored. Then Smith was fouled while shooting. He missed his first free throw attempt but made his second to cut West Aurora's lead to one.
"We hadn't pressed for most of the game. We were worn out, bone tired, having played the last game on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon," said Morgan Park coach Bill Warden.
"Levi knocked the ball loose and we tied them up for a jump ball. Throughout the season, Levi and Laird had worked out a signaling thing to determine where the tip was going to go. We didn't have another timeout left. If we did, I would probably have had the tip go to David Johnson, who they weren't guarding. As it turned out, it was a picture tip and Laird hit a 17-footer for the winning basket."
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How about East St. Louis Lincoln's heart-stopping 59-57 triple overtime victory over Peoria Central in the 1989 state championship? Vincent Jackson scored the game-winning basket at the buzzer. It was East St. Louis Lincoln's third state title in a row.
"It was the most exciting game I ever coached, the best game I've ever seen," East St. Louis Lincoln coach Bennie Lewis said.
"We were trying to hold the ball for the last shot," said East St. Louis Lincoln star Cuonzo Martin, now head coach at Tennessee. "I was doubled up in the paint so it would have been tough for me to get a shot. Jackson or (Chris) McKinney were the best bets. But if you have to pick one guy to take it, it would be Jackson, a real great athlete. It was an unorthodox shot but it was the same follow-through he always had."
In the 1999 Class A final between Rock Falls and Waterloo Gibault, Rock Falls' Brian Vance realized the dream of every high school basketball player by converting a 28-footer in the last second to lift Rock Falls to a 45-43 victory.
Trailing by 11 points with three minutes to play, Rock Falls rallied. With 13 seconds left, coach Thom Sigel's team gained possession underneath its basket after a traveling violation.
Vance took the in-bounds pass and dribbled to the middle of the floor, pulled up and fired.
"I thought it was going to be short. But it was nothing but net. I can't believe it," he said.
In 1982, Quincy and Bruce Douglas and Dennis Douglas were heavily favored to win their second state title in a row. But their 64-game winning streak was snapped by Mendel in the semifinals as Michael Hampton capped his 26-point performance by hitting a 25-footer with two seconds left for a stunning 53-52 victory.
In the closing seconds, with the game tied at 51, referee Marvin Carlson warned Mendel to come out of its zone defense and guard the Blue Devils. But the Monarchs opted to sit back in their zone and Carlson whistled a technical foul. Mark Sparrow's free throw gave Quincy a 52-51 lead, setting the stage for Hampton's dramatic shot.
Mount Carmel was a surprise winner in 1985, beating Springfield Lanphier 46-44 in double overtime for the state title. Lanphier, led by Illinois' Mr. Basketball Ed Horton, was seeking its second title in three years and had eliminated defending state champion Simeon in the quarterfinals.
Lanphier rallied from a 38-30 deficit to force overtime. In the first overtime, Lanphier held the ball for a last shot but missed. In the second overtime, Lanphier again played for a last shot but missed again and Mount Carmel star Melvin McCants rebounded with six seconds to play. With two seconds left, a floor-length pass to McCants was deflected out of bounds by Horton, setting up the final play.
Chris Calloway in-bounded the ball. The other players set up on a straight line -- James Farr, McCants, Derek Boyd and Sam Smallwood. Farr was the first option. He had scored 30 points in the game. He popped out to the corner but was covered. The second option was McCants going to the hoop for a lob. But he was covered, too. Then Boyd stepped up. He was all alone.
"I had to make up for not shooting well (2-of-11) through the whole game," said Boyd, a sophomore who made a left-handed 10-foot jumper from the baseline for the game-winner. "The play was designed to go to me. I wasn't surprised. In the huddle, when the coach (Ed McQuillan) called the play, I knew it was designed for me."
"We've never run that play all year," said McQuillan, who said McCants was the first option, then Farr or Boyd.
But nothing, absolutely nothing, was more bizarre than West Rockford's 61-59 victory over Elgin for the 1955 state championship. With 2:19 to play and trailing 57-51, West Rockford scored six points in one second -- that's right, six points in one second -- to turn the tide.
How did it happen?
West Rockford star Nolden Gentry made a 17-footer, was fouled after the shot and converted two free throws. Elgin threw the ball to Gary Siegmeier at half-court. Rex Parker was guarding him. Both were wearing number 43.
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"The ball was up in the air and we both went up for it. He was taller than me. The whistle blew and the official called a foul on number 43," Parker recalled. "The foul had been called on Siegmeier. I walked to the free throw line and made two free throws. The score was tied at 57 with 2:18 left."
Six points in one second.
With 14 seconds to play, Gentry tipped in John Wessels' missed shot for the game-winning basket.
"Things happen, maybe for better or worse," said Elgin coach Bill Chesbrough philosophically more than 45 years later. "You have to forget about those things and move on. Sure, I thought we should have won. Even today, you remember the tough losses more than anything else."