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Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thus is the basis for what will be forever known at Patrick Henry High School as “The Tyler Effect.”
Eight days after losing senior co-captain Tyler Pinder to a season-ending knee injury, and seven days after losing a share of the Colonial District regular season title at Deep Run, the Patriots girls basketball team were on a mission.
Before the tournament began, head coach Phillip Cobb told Tyler’s twin sister Jasmine, “Let’s do it for Tyler.” After their Colonial Tournament Quarterfinal win over J.R. Tucker, point guard Summer Price proclaimed, “We’re determined this time” to play a Deep Run team that had taken two of three wins over Patrick Henry.
Sure enough, the three-seeded Patriots responded with a stellar defensive performance and key free throw conversions late to eliminate Deep Run in the semifinals, 46-35, setting up a championship game showdown with top-seeded Mills Godwin, who lost to the Patriots in December, but beat them handily during a stretch that saw them unbeaten in 2013 coming into Friday at Deep Run.
Mills Godwin spent most of the first half keeping a small lead, with Patrick Henry finding ways to draw them within range. In fact, had the Patriots been able to shoot from the outside with any consistency, Godwin would have been the team trying to stay alive. The Patriots shot five for 27 from the field in the first half, and the Eagles led at halftime 16-13, and 31-25 after three quarters. An Amber Lee 30-foot three-pointer that went in as the buzzer sounded was deemed too late by the officials, setting the stage for the final quarter.
It began with Ashley Samuels, in foul trouble all night, committing her fifth just 36 seconds into the quarter. For a team with little depth, only rotating six players to begin with, this forced Cobb to begin a stretch where the same five girls (Price, Lee, Pinder, India Coles and Rachel Adams) would stay on the floor together for over 13.5 minutes of playing time, all the while watching Godwin freely substitute fresh legs into the contest. With 4:34 left, Godwin was leading 35-27 and there was nothing to indicate a miracle comeback was about to be born.
It began quietly, when Coles hit a basket to make it 35-29. Then Price went to work, scoring four points in 30 seconds. Godwin responded with a bucket and it was 37-33. Points were coming at a premium for both teams due to a combination of great defense on both ends of the floor and poor shooting, especially by Patrick Henry. The very nature of the game would have to change for a Patriot comeback to be successful, and the metamorphosis was underway.
As some teams do with a late lead in an important game, Godwin essentially stopped running their offense and went into “milk the clock” mode, trying to take as much time off the clock as they could with each possession, knowing Patrick Henry had few fouls to give to stop the clock due to lack of depth. What the Eagles succeeded in doing, however, was the exact opposite. By Godwin not attacking the basket, the Patrick Henry defense reacted by creating more opportunities to take the ball and have a chance to complete the comeback.
At 37-35 Godwin, Amber Lee was fouled driving to the basket. Lee, a junior, calmly knocked down two free throws with her laser-like shooting motion, and suddenly the game was tied at 37-37 with 2:45 to go. Momentum had completely shifted to the Patriots, and the large PH fan contingent responded uproariously. The Godwin faithful responded in kind when the Eagles hit two free throws 20 seconds later to retake the lead.
Then Pinder took charge, running down the lane, knocking down a floater to tie the game. Godwin drove down court, missed two shots, but on the third try made it, and it was 41-39 Eagles with 1:15 remaining. Lee would come up big scoring two more to tie the game at 41. Godwin could hold the ball for the winning shot, but instead, attempted one with 15 seconds left and missed. The Patriots had possession, 13 seconds on the clock, and after being down all night, had a chance to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
Summer Price drove down court, seemingly to take matters in her own hands, but, instead, she saw Lee open under the basket. But her pass attempt went long and out of bounds, and Godwin had 3.2 seconds left. Marilyn Steppe took the inbounds pass and heaved the ball from half-court, but was short, and four more minutes went up on the clock.
The first overtime was, offensively, the best four minutes of the night, as each team put up 10 points in the stanza. When Price hit two free throws at 2:30 to go, Patrick Henry led for the first time since the opening quarter at 44-43. Godwin once again rose to the challenge with a basket by Kelly Petrohovich, two free throws, then a clutch three-pointer to take a 51-48 lead into the final minute.
Enter Rachel Adams. Adams, the quiet one known more for her defensive prowess, can shoot from long range and had two three-pointers already in the game, but several misses as well. With 31 seconds to go, the ball was passed to Adams on the left wing. She calmly and promptly launched a trey and hit nothing but net. The game was tied at 51-51 and the Ashland fans went crazy.
Cobb set the defense while Godwin schemed for a game-winning shot, but before they could shoot they mishandled the ball, the Patriots picked it up, and Adams was dribbling downcourt in the final seconds with a chance to win. She stopped, launched a three from the right wing, but it went off the rim. There would be double overtime.
By now, the fans coming to see the boys final between Douglas Freeman and John Marshall had arrived, and the atmosphere got that much louder and exciting. In what would be the game’s final stand, the Patriots made it on what has been their bread and butter, defense, and the shooting touch of Summer Price.
Amber Lee started the scoring, putting back a missed Price runner for two for a 53-51 lead. On the next possession, Godwin launched a three, Lee fouled the shooter, and Amber’s night was over. A collective gasp came over Patriot Nation. It was up to Chantell Gordon, the sparsely-used seventh player in rotation, to come and fill in as a defensive specialist for 97 seconds.
Inexplicably, Godwin missed all three free throw attempts, but forced a turnover and drew another foul for two more free throws. They missed them, too. Instead of showing Godwin up by three, the scoreboard read Patriots by two. The ball went to Price on offense. It was up to her to finish the job.
Price drew a foul and got two free throws, calmly sinking them for a two-possession lead, 55-51 with 21 seconds left. Godwin’s quick drive to the basket produced an errant shot and Gordon played her role perfectly, ripping down a rebound. She was fouled, made one of two free throws, and Patriot fans began to celebrate while the Eagles fans across the way watched reality painfully sink in.
All the while through the night, watching the game in a wheelchair just 24 hours removed from major knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and torn meniscus, was Tyler Pinder. Her tears of disappointment that flowed during starting lineups were about to become tears of joy.
Godwin missed their last shot, fouled Adams, who hit one of two free throws. The final buzzer sounded. Mills Godwin had been shut out in the second overtime. Patrick Henry had done it. Through sheer will, determination, and the goal of doing it for Tyler, the Patriots knocked off the top seed, 57-51 to win the final Colonial District Tournament Championship.
The team only briefly mobbed on court, as seconds into the celebration, they ran behind the bench to their teammate Tyler Pinder, taking the celebration to the senior co-captain.
Price, named Colonial District Player of The Year after the game, scored 23 points. Lee had 11 points and 14 rebounds, and Adams, who will go down in Patriot history with the trey that forced double overtime, scored 10. All three are juniors. The future remains bright.
Cobb wiped his brow, then talked to the Herald-Progress about the genesis of the amazing comeback.
“We needed something to happen. We need a stop. We need to change the momentum, and we didn’t quit. That’s what we talked about during the timeout, to never quit, and we started grinding back and they started holding the ball. They may have thought the game was over before it was, and we took advantage of that.”
It was a 14-6 run in the final 4:30 of regulation by Patrick Henry that forced overtime.
“We fought as a team, and with God’s help, He led us through, and we all believed it, too,” Price noted. “We wanted the win, no matter what. Ashley [Samuels] fouled out, we didn’t have Tyler, there went Amber, but everyone coming in wanted that win so they were fighting with us.”
No one fought harder than Jasmine Pinder, who admitted after the game that she was “playing for two,” with her sister cheering her on just feet away from courtside.
“Defense, rebounding, we did everything right, everything we were supposed to do and hung in there,” Pinder said of the nature of the comeback and subsequent overtime performance. “I could rely on [Tyler], but now, I had to be two people, so I went all out, gave it everything I got. I just had to do it for my sister.”
Tyler held the championship trophy as team photos were taken courtside after the game, a fitting way to honor a fallen leader, who, on one good leg, picked up an entire team and emotionally led them to the promised land.