In his 19 years of coaching high school basketball, Pine Bluff head coach Carl Smith has never seen a referee reverse his decision about a call.
But Friday night at McFaddden Gymnasium, a referee waved off a three-point basket after discussing it with the other two referees, deciding that the shot was not released in time.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Smith said. “It comes with the game, I guess.”
The decision to wave off the basket cost the Zebras the game as El Dorado won 82-81 in overtime.
“My kid made a big shot and he counted it good,” Smith said.
With 4.5 seconds left in the game, El Dorado missed two free throws and Pine Bluff was able to grab the defensive rebound.
Senior Rickey Clements released a shot right in front of the referee on the far side of the court. The shot went in and the initial call awarded Pine Bluff the bucket and apparent win.
But following a meeting, the original referee who called it good waved off the basket.
Pine Bluff (8-6, 3-1 in 7A/6A-South) had a timeout remaining but Smith didn’t want to call a timeout because he didn’t want to give El Dorado (8-7, 3-1) time to set up a defensive play.
“We wanted a good look for us,” Smith said. “I told them what I wanted to do – push it down the floor.”
With 40 seconds left in regulation, Pine Bluff led 77-75 after El Dorado’s Jalen Cunningham knocked down a pair of free throws.
After Pine Bluff missed the front end of a one-and-one, El Dorado regained possession. The Wildcats lost it out of bounds to give Pine Bluff the ball back with more than 20 seconds left.
However, Pine Bluff would turn it over when Darrian Kee stepped on the inbounds line trying to throw it in.
Following an inbounds play by El Dorado, Cunningham would wait until about 8 seconds left before he drove the lane and put up a layup off the glass to tie the game at 77 with almost no time left.
It was not the play El Dorado coach Gary Simmons drew up, but he’ll take it.
“It was a big game for both teams,” Simmons said. “It puts us back in the hunt. Our guys have been working pretty hard trying to pick up this new style.
“That was a huge win for us.”
Heading into the fourth quarter, Pine Bluff was trailing 59-55. A basket by Tyrone Payne and a pair of free throws by John Tate got the Zebras within two with 6:32 left.
Ladarius Skelton tied it on a layup and Pine Bluff took a 63-61 lead when Payne scored following a defensive block on the other end.
Pine Bluff maintained that lead until El Dorado’s Jacorey Tate tied the game at 71.
“[El Dorado] shot the ball well,” Smith said. “On the road, they shot the ball well. They made some big threes.
“It wasn’t all just us, they did their party to stay in there.”
El Dorado and Pine Bluff were tied at 37 at halftime.
“They had us down and we fought our way back into it,” Smith said. “We got a little cushion and they fought back and stayed close.
“It was a good high school game.”
Tate led El Dorado with 28 points and Cunningham contributed with 13 points.
For Pine Bluff, Kee led with 25 points and Payne chipped in with 16 points, while Clements had 15 points. John Tate had 12 points.
“They like playing like we do,” Smith said. “They want to get up and pressure the ball.
“It was a fast-paced game and we don’t mind that.”
Smith said Pine Bluff was able to slow it down and get back into the game.
“We pressed the ball and caused some turnovers,” Smith said. “It just didn’t go our way.”
Pine Bluff will face Sheridan on Tuesday night. The Benton Panthers maintained their lead in the 7A/6A-South Conference with a 65-43 win over Lake Hamilton on Friday night. The Panthers are now 4-0 in league play.
Pine Bluff will host Benton on Jan. 25.