Blocking foul or offensive charge? It's arguably the most debatable call in basketball, and the bang-bang call certainly provided a dramatic high point in Fenwick's 52-50 overtime loss to visiting Loyola on Friday night.
With the score knotted at 47-all late in the fourth quarter, Loyola held the ball for over a minute before sinking an apparent game-winning layup with 1.5 seconds left; however, one of the referees called a charge taken by the Friars' precocious freshman point guard Michael Smith.
Predictably, the call elicited a mixed reaction of boos from Loyola fans and cheers from Friar Nation. Even Gov. Pat Quinn was into the intense game as he signaled a traveling call on a Loyola player several plays before Smith's charge.
"I saw him coming and I knew he wasn't passing," Smith said about his defensive gem. "I just got to the spot and luckily a charge was called. We moved the ball well and hit some shots. We played beautiful defense for most of the game, but we also had some defensive breakdowns."
Forcing overtime via Smith's defensive heroics, the Friars ostensibly held momentum but Loyola outscored Fenwick 5-3 in the additional time to secure the hard-fought win and also seize sole possession of first place in the Catholic League North at 4-0. Fenwick is 10-7 overall, and 3-1 in the North.
While Loyola (15-5 overall) deserves credit for its victory, the Friars dominated large portions of the game, including a 14-2 spurt early to open the contest. Smith nailed a pair of three-pointers during the impressive run. Fenwick also effectively pounded the ball inside to 6-foot-8 Dan Dwyer and 6-6 Thomas Planek against the Ramblers whose tallest starter was 6-2.
"We look for everybody offensively," Planek said, "but we knew we had a height advantage and we went to Dwyer [early]. We played great, especially in the first half, but we didn't a get a hand up enough in their faces when they started hitting three-pointers. We also gave up some rebounds and too many second chance points.
"Just have to forget about this game, even though we had it. It's over and doesn't matter anymore. We have to prepare for St. Laurence and make sure we beat them."
The Friars maintained control over Loyola, holding a 31-16 halftime lead and 43-31 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Fenwick went cold in the fourth, however, as Loyola rallied with a 16-4 regulation-ending run to force the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Matt Sullivan converted several key free throws to lead Loyola. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Luke Lattner canned a trey at the buzzer to make the final score 52-50.
The Ramblers' Jack Morrissey finished with a game-high 23 points, including 6-for-10 from three-point range. Smith paced the Friars with 15 points, while Lattner (12 points) and Scott Lindsey (11 points) also reached double figures. Planek and Dwyer chipped in with six points apiece.
"Loyola did a great job and showed a lot of mettle, so credit to them," Fenwick coach John Quinn said. "There are turning points in a game, and when you have a big lead you have to protect it. We called several timeouts in the fourth quarter to settle our team down, but sometimes we tend to play too fast.
"We have a young team so there are growing pains. No one is more disappointed about this loss than our players."
The Friars travel to St. Laurence on Friday, Feb. 1 (7 p.m.).