"Oh, yeah, he did," said Verne Lundquist, Elmore's partner. There was a tone of reproach in the voice that, during the Winter Olympics only a month before, had benignly recounted for millions the triple toe loops of teenage girls in Albertville. For so soothing a voice to render so harsh a judgment gave that judgment added weight.
Pitino hadn't seen what had happened. "If I had," he says now, "I would have gotten on the officials. If not for the ejection of Laettner, at least to try to get a call or two later." But Krzyzewski knew exactly what had happened, and he was furious.
"That was unbelievably dumb," he barked at Laettner. A contact technical counts as a personal foul, and the Duke star now had three. It was the second time in a matter of minutes that the Blue Devils' focus, normally as narrow as a laser's light, had gone diffuse with the clock stopped. First when we'd gone up 12, Krzyzewski disgustedly thought to himself. Now this.
Christian Laettner's crude kick to Timberlake's midsection nonetheless seemed to alert all parties to check their guts. Overtime would eclipse the rest of regulation time, but there were several splendid moments over the next eight minutes: Kentucky guard Dale Brown's slicing move through the lane between Laettner and Hurley, which wound up a three-point play; the Wildcats' John Pelphrey, despite having four fouls, drawing a charge from Hurley; two pull-up jumpers in traffic by Thomas Hill of Duke in the last few minutes; and, finally, the capstone of the first two halves, a play by Kentucky sixth man Deron Feldhaus, who picked off a Pelphrey miss in the lane, then contorted his body to drop in the layup that tied the score at 93 with 33.6 seconds to play. When a spent Hurley—he had 10 assists now, but eight turnovers, too—took and missed an off-balance jumper over Woods as time ran out, Pitino had brought his team to the brink.
Let this fight go on, let it last one, two, as many extra rounds as necessary; the challengers now believed more than ever that they would eventually get to the champs. Pelphrey opened the overtime with a three-pointer from the top of the key, then drew another charge, this time on Duke's Brian Davis, his fifth foul.
With his team now leading 96-93, Pitino emphasized above all else that the Wildcats not surrender a three-pointer. So it was bad enough that Kentucky let Hurley take one at all. Worse still, when he missed, the long rebound was grabbed by Grant Hill.
All season Krzyzewski had drummed into his team that the three-point shot after an offensive rebound is the most open three-pointer a team gets. "A coach always gets upset when you give up an offensive rebound," he says. "But if you can magnify it with a three-pointer, it's a knife." Thus Hill looked instantly to Hurley, who was still lingering outside the arc. This time Hurley's shot ripped through.
Yet his knife somehow missed Pelphrey, who was in the lane moments later, scoring another layup. Couldn't the game have ended here, at 98-96, with the hero this rawboned and redheaded young man from Paintsville, Ky. (pop. 5,300), rising out of a crowd? Couldn't the game have ended with Cawood Ledford, the voice of the Wildcats, who would be retiring after this, his 39th season, calling the heroism of one of the Kentucky seniors?
El Ferrol, John Pelphrey likes to tell Statesiders who ask about the Spanish city in which he's now playing basketball, is sort of like Seattle. It's tucked into the upper lefthand corner of the country and is a shipbuilding center with ample water views. Galicia even has the gloomy climate of the Pacific Northwest, which frequently fits Pelphrey's mood just fine.
Often he will toss and turn in his bed, unable to get to sleep. Sometimes he will awaken with a start, only to see Grant Hill's pass in the air and Laettner's shot whispering through the net. "You have a goal, and you chase it so far, and you make yourself so vulnerable by wanting it so badly," he says. It isn't that Pelphrey doesn't appreciate the history to which he was a party. "If you're going to have your career end, you might as well have it end with what many people consider the greatest game of all time. You just hope you're the guy who makes history, or the guy who watches it. Not the guy it happens to."