Note: This article originally appeared in the Mirror on Friday, March 9, 1979.
By Neil Rudel
In the end, Bellwood-Antis was Apollo Creed and Williamsburg was Rocky.
Bellwood advanced to the District 6 Class A final game with an 85-83 double-overtime semifinal victory over the Blue Pirates Thursday night in a game so magnificently played that it was seemingly won a dozen times. But each team, on the verge of defeat, simply scraped itself off the ropes and refused to lie down.
It was the kind of game that made the overflow crowd at Bishop Guilfoyle exit proud to be affiliated with sport. Neither team deserved to lose.
It was a donnybrook game that saw:
—Devils’ Don Erickson, who won the last game between the two schools with two foul shots with no time left, can two free throws with one second left in double overtime that provided the difference.
—Bellwood’s Chris DiRoma, after Williamsburg missed a free throw with 4 seconds left, race frantically up court and launch a desperation shot from one step over the midcourt line that almost brushed the rafters and banked in at the buzzer. That knotted the game at 71 and forced the first overtime.
—The lead deadlocked or exchange hands 21 times.
—Both coaches leave the floor in utter disbelief.
Said Pirate coach Don Appleman: “You don’t like to lose, but I don’t feel anything. I’m kinda numb.’’
“I can’t explain it,’’ Devil coach Galen Bickel began slowly, still dazed and starry eyed. “It was miraculous. Again, the bench (Scott Stevens, Butch Riggleman, Dave DiRoma) came through.
“I thought we should have had it after four quarters. We gave it to them on turnovers and poor foul shooting. I thought we gave it to them for good.’’
But DiRoma, putting a fitting end to an incredible performance, rescued the Devils with his halfcourt crowd-exploder.
“As I saw the ball in the air, I thought it had a chance,’’ Bickel said. “I wanted him to drive farther; I guess he saw the clock. Chris is our key man at the point. We depend on him to set the tempo and run the offense. We depend on him to make the great pass and hit the open man.’’
But Bickel doesn’t depend on Chris DiRoma to hit the halfcourt buzzer-beater to keep his team’s Cinderella hopes alive for the District 6 crown. Bellwood faces Conemaugh Valley tonight (8:30 at BG) for the championship.
It was DiRoma’s Jerry West-quality bomb that gave Appleman the initial creeps.
“Hey,’’ he said, looking like a winner. “DiRoma’s a great pressure player, but when he hits a shot like that you get the feeling the odds are against you.’’
Williamsburg, which will meet Laurel Valley for consolation honors Saturday, had its chances to win — particularly at the end of the first OT when, with the score tied at 77 with 10 seconds left, Pirates’ playmaker Arkey Morelli fed sophomore center Scott Calhoun, who was wide open for a layup. But Calhoun forgot to put the ball on the floor. He was called for walking.
Then again at the end of the second overtime. Leading 83-81 with 20 seconds left, the Pirates were in a freeze. But Stan Grove fired up an air ball from the corner with seven seconds left. DiRoma seized the rebound and roared up court, where he was fouled. The composed floor general, who scored 30 points, dealt out 13 assists and all but carried the Devils on his back when starters Rick Webb, Lance Roulic and Bob Fowler fouled out, hit the one-plus-one to tie the game at 83.
Morelli took the inbounds pass, drove the length of the floor, but charged into Erickson, Bellwood’s “Mr. Clutch.’’
“I thought we played well enough to win,’’ Appleman said, “but as a team we still make the little mistakes; we still can’t avoid the mental and physical mistakes at the end of a big game.’’
The Pirates jumped off to a 6-2 lead, but the Devils stormed back to lead 14-13 after one quarter, 34-31 at half and 56-50 at three stops.
“I wish I had a video tape,’’ Bickel said, relaxed and smiling now. “If there was ever a better game — if there ever will be, I’d like to be there.’’
Game notes: Conemaugh Valley, touted by most (including Bickel), as the team to beat, bested Laurel Valley in opener 53-48 ... Bellwood pushed its record to 15-14 ... After a 1-7 start, Bellwood is .500 for first time this year ... Williamsburg, which placed five players in double figures with Grove’s 21 leading the way, is 16-14 after an 0-7 start ... Devils shot 34 of 61 from the field; Pirates hit 30 of 65 ... Rebounds were even at 35; Roulic led Devils with 10; Calhoun had 11 for Pirates ... Turnovers were almost even: 13 for Bellwood, two less than Pirates.
Williamsburg (83): Ellis 6 2-4 14, Grove 8 5-9 21, Calhoun 4 7-10 15, Morelli 4 2-2 10, Michelone 7 4-5 18, Speacht 1 3-6 5, Krempasky 0 0-0 0. Totals — 30 23-36 83.
Bellwood (85): DiRoma 11 8-11 30, Webb 8 3-5 19, Roulic 7 4-4 18, Erickson 1 2-4 4, Fowler 2 0-0 4, Riggleman 1 0-0 2, Stevens 4 0-1 8. Totals — 34 17-25 85.
Score by quarters
Williamsburg 13 18 19 21 6 6 — 83
Bellwood 14 20 22 15 6 8 — 85
Officials: Dave Roman, George Marsh