Cal frosh makes amends with game-winning 3-pointer in OTPosted: Thursday March 20, 2003 4:40 PM
By Michael C. Lewis, Special to SI.com
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The North Carolina State Wolfpack stopped Calís Richard Midgley the first two times he tried to win his first game in the NCAA tournament. But Midgley, who moved to the United States from his native England as a teenager to pursue his basketball career, wasnít going to give up so easily.
So even after having two driving layups swatted away in the final minute of regulation at the Ford Center, the 19-year-old freshman did not so much as flinch when teammate Joe Shipp threw him a pass out of a double-team with precious seconds ticking away in overtime and the Golden Bears trailing by one.
As if he had done it a million times before, Midgley buried a 3-pointer from the left side with 3.9 seconds left to give Cal a 76-74 victory in the East Regional and turn himself into the first unlikely hero of the tournament.
"I saw Joe go to the bucket and all the defenders sag down on him," Midgley said. "So I called for the ball, and he found me. And if Iím wide open, Iím confident Iíll hit my shot. I wasnít worried about what happened earlier in the game."
The Golden Bears had blown a six-point lead in the final 4:51 of regulation, and the game was tied at 66 the first time Midgley tried to drive to the hole with 44 seconds left. Though he made it all the way into the paint, N.C. State center Josh Powell slid over and blocked his shot.
The game was still tied after an anxious series of timeouts and turnovers, and Midgley tried again off an inbounds pass from Conor Famulener with 3.1 seconds left. This time, it was the Wolfpackís Scooter Sherrill who leapt up to surprise Midgley and swat the ball away.
"I felt like I had open layups," Midgley said.
There was no question about the 3-pointer, though.
The Bears had one timeout remaining after Sherrill drilled a 3-pointer to give the Wolfpack a 74-73 lead with 15 seconds left in overtime, but coach Ben Braun decided against using it once Shipp wound up with the ball as the Bears drove upcourt.
"When you have the ball in your best playerís hands, you have to give him an opportunity to make a play," Braun said.
And he did.
"When I passed halfcourt, I tried to create and go to the basket," Shipp said. "But when I was all the way to the basket, I saw a lot of helpside defenders, so I looked up and Richard was wide open, and he made the play."
It was a stunning victory for Midgley, and not only because heís not one of the Bearsí "Big Three" of Shipp, Amit Tamir and Brian Wethers.
He moved to California four years ago from his home in Burgess Hill, England, with designs on a serious basketball career, having fallen in love with the game while watching a professional game in his homeland as a boy. His coach happened to have a friend in Modesto, Calif., who let Midgley live with him for his final three years of high school at Modesto Christian.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound point guard committed to Cal early and set a freshman record with his 45.6 percent 3-point shooting this season after sitting out last year because his high school league said he was too old. Midgley also was named to the All-Freshman team in the Pac-10 Conference.
"I guess I picked the right sport," he said.
Indeed, Midgley grew up attracting strange looks from his friends, who couldnít understand why he wanted to play basketball instead of soccer. But he doesnít expect to get much satisfaction from them now for his triumph or the cut on his brow that he suffered in the manic celebration.
"In England, they donít cover this at all," he said.
Mike Lewis covers college sports for the Salt Lake Tribune in Salt Lake City.