BY MARK SALUKE KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — MUNCIE — At least one thing is for sure: Kokomo’s North Central Conference boys basketball opener Friday night certainly wasn’t short on thrills.
The Wildkats and Muncie Central battled through nine lead changes and 14 ties, needing an extra session before a victor emerged.
The final :05 of the overtime is what will have people talking the longest, though, as the game went down to a final shot that left the Bearcats roaring and the Kats shaking their heads in disbelief.
Up 53-52 with :5.8 showing, Kokomo senior Erik Bowen swatted Phillip Corthen’s 3-point attempt into the stands. On the inbounds, with :5.2 showing, Marcus Dukes drove the lane and threw up an errant shot. Tyler Arens grabbed the rebound, turned, and got a shot off that left his hand just as time expired.
Or did it?
“I was just kind of watching it in a fog, hoping they missed,” Wildkat coach Brian McCauley said. “They missed the first shot, I saw Arens catch it, I’ve got the scoreboard in the other corner of my eye and obviously it was just really, really close. In high school, unfortunately, there’s no replay. If it was the NBA or college, we could take a look at it, but unfortunately we can’t.”
Several times in the extra session, Central tried to put the game away with the 3-ball, but was 0 of 4 following Corthen’s blocked attempt. Kokomo called a timeout following that play, and the Bearcats set up a play for the inbound.
“I’d like to say that we drew it up and we executed perfectly,” Central coach Matt Fine said. “Obviously, we didn’t do that. We were trying to slip the ball to Tyler, but not that way. That happens with wild shots at the end of games. Who knows what the deal with the shot was … of course I think it’s good and Brian doesn’t, but I’m sure he was saying to his team, ‘We rebound the basketball and it’s over.’”
McCauley noted that, as well as the Kats’ poor free-throw shooting.
“Obviously, we lose on a tip-in at the buzzer and we were 8 of 15 from the free throw line,” he said. “That being said, Muncie Central was 7 of 13, so they gave us some opportunities there.
“It’s just tough, Our guys played so hard, did so many great things. It’s disappointing to see that we were 9 of 12 on 3-pointers and we lose. We could just as easily be 3-0 as 1-2 right now.”
The loss, which dropped Kokomo to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the NCC, wasn’t without some great performances.
Mykal Cox finished with 13 points and 10 assists. The 10 assists were the most a Kokomo player has dished out since Michael Gaines went for 11 in the 1996-97 season.
“Mykal just played his guts out,” McCauley said. “And what a huge game Brad Dockemeyer played for us. Erik Bowen was huge as well.”
Dockemeyer finished with a team-high 15 points, going 5 of 6 from 3-land. Bowen had 13 points, while Demarius Warren finished with 11.
The Kats led Muncie Central (4-0, 1-0) 14-11 at the first stop before the Bearcats battled back to tie the game at 23-all at the half.
Warren’s buzzer-beater at the end of the third period put the Kats up 40-38 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.
Kokomo clawed back from a five-point deficit with under 2:00 to play to knot the game at 51-all and force the extra session.