Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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For 28 minutes it was predictable.  But the last four minutes were classic Shelby County League basketball…shooting, defense, deafening noise, and a finish where the officials let the players decide.  Jackson Center survived it all to beat Anna…by a point!

Anna, OH – Someone should have seen this coming, because there’s nothing predictable about Shelby County League basketball.

For instance, Jackson Center, who was struggling to breathe a month ago, had run off six consecutive wins to stand 14-6.

Anna, who is not having a typical year (8-14), was celebrating its Senior Night, and it was the last home court appearance for thousand-point scorer McKane Finkenbine.  And at Anna they don’t let accomplishment like that go unnoticed.  The locals poured into the Rockets’ cozy little gym to show their appreciation.  It was packed!

Jackson Center, playing predictably, and confidently, jumped out to an early lead on the shooting of Jace Mullenhour and led at the end of the first quarter 13-10, and at the end of the half, 28-22.

And as Mullenhour kept scoring in the third quarter he began to get 3-point help from teammates Carson Regula and Nolan Fark.  By quarter’s end they had extended their lead to ten points, 46-36.  And given their defensive legacy, and ability to shut down opposing offenses…like one would pinch out the flame on a candle…this every bit looked predictable and like an eventual Jackson Center win.

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But ‘Whoa, Nellie’, Keith Jackson…and take some time to consider the Anna assets.  The Rockets came storming back in the fourth and eventually took the lead, leading to what one Jackson Center fan would call, “As good a last two minutes as you’ve ever seen in Shelby County League basketball.”

He wasn’t wrong.  It had a little bit of everything.

Jackson Center built its lead in the third quarter by attacking the rim (Camdyn Reese, above).

Jackson did have that 46-36 lead as the teams came out for the fourth quarter.  But Anna coach Nate Barhorst had lit a fire to the Rockets in the timeout huddle between quarters.

“We had talked this week about this being the last time the seniors would play on their home court,”  said Barhorst.  “I remember when I played here, and what it felt like to play my last game on this court.  We talked about that and I could still feel what it felt like when they went out for the fourth quarter.”

McKane Finkenbine could feel it, for sure.  The Rockets’ senior had single-handedly kept them in it in the first half, scoring 15 of their 22 points.  And in the third quarter he ignited to score 11 of the Rockets’ 14 points, hitting three 3-pointers in five attempts.

“When he’s feeling it from deep you kinda’ let him go and do his thing,”  said Barhorst afterwards.

He did his thing.  Little by little he began to chip away at the Jackson Center lead.  And suddenly he had help in the person of fellow senior Zach Ambos, who caught fire to score 9 of his 15 points for the game in a span of six minutes.

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Jackson Center did their part to help.  They had had turnover issues in the first half, and those same issues came back to rear their ugly head in the opening minutes of the fourth.

“We got carefree with the ball,”  said Jackson coach Scott Elchert.  “They were more aggressive on defense in the fourth quarter, and we weren’t aggressive attacking the hoop.  We were playing closer to the halfcourt line than we did to the basket.  And one thing led to another.  They were making shots and we stopped making shots.”

Zach Ambos’ three midway through the fourth gave Anna the lead, 48-47.

Anna cut it to 6, then 4, and with Jackson leading 47-45, Ambos hit the second of his three-pointers in the quarter to give Anna a 48-47 lead, their first lead since the early seconds of the game.

Jackson Center came right back to retake the lead on a Carson Regula layup off the baseline.

Anna had its blood up now, and Finkenbine promptly canned a three-pointer over Reese to go back ahead, 54-52 – his sixth long bomb of the game.

Back and forth, Jackson came down with 30 seconds remaining and Carson Regula hit an improbable three-pointer (his third of the night) from the deep corner to retake the lead, 55-54.

“I don’t usually take that shot, and when I do I get my butt chewed,”  laughed Regula.  “But I felt good in that moment, I had been making shots all night, and when I came open I decided to shoot it.”

But on the inbounds play by Anna, Finkenbine was fouled, knocked down, and went to the line to shoot two.  He made them both to send Anna back ahead, 56-55.

Jackson Center took possession for the last time with  9.8 seconds left on the clock, and when the ball crossed the mid-line it was in the hands of Camdyn Reese.  He didn’t hesitate…making a dart for the basket, only to be confronted by Anna’s Drew Doseck.

“I really didn’t have a choice,”  said Reese.  “It was straight line to the basket and I wasn’t going to kick it out.  I saw him (Doseck) set up for the charge and I tried to step outside of him so I didn’t get called.”

As it turned out it wasn’t a typical layup…a good ten feet from the basket when Reese let it go.  But it went in with 4.7 seconds left on the clock.  Jackson Center fans roared;  Anna’s side grew quiet, resigned to their fate.  But after an Anna timeout there was more heart-stopping drama.

Overplaying Finkenbine on the inbounds play because he’s capable of hitting a shot from anyplace on the court, Jackson Center totally lost Zach Ambos down-court, who caught a Hail Mary pass in stride and had no one between him and the basket.  He put his head down and headed for the rim, losing precious time as he went for the layup instead of a jump shot from the wing.  It allowed Camdyn Reese time enough to run the play down, get between Ambos and the rim, and as the horn sounded there appeared to be contact between the two.  Ambos’ shot bounced off the flange, no good, and about that same time Nate Barhorst arrived to ask the official why there was no foul called.

In situations like that you have two chances of getting an answer – slim and none.  Barhorst got the latter, the game was over, and what surely would have been the quintessential Shelby County League moment had come up two points short.

McKane Finkenbine helped shoot Anna back into the game with 15 second half points – 35 for the game.

“You see why he’s the Shelby County League Player of The Year, don’t you?”  said Scott Elchert, speaking of McKane Finkebine’s night, when he was asked about the game.

And what about Carson Regula’s three-pointer late in the game to give the Tigers that 55-54 lead?

“That was a big shot,”  said Elchert.  “But that’s a senior for ya’, right there. That’s what seniors are supposed to do at this time of year.  And Camdyn (Reese) has just been our glue guy, to be honest with you.  Unless you coach and see him daily, you don’t understand what he brings to the team.  He’s a glue guy, because he can handle the ball, he can defend, he scores inside and he rebounds for us.  So I wasn’t surprised when he hit that layup.”

Jace Mullenhour led Jackson with 19 points, while Regula had 14, Reese 10, Bryson Roberts had 6, Nolan Fark had 5, and Kellen Reichert and Lucas Hartle combined for 3 points.

And, there was some of this….

For Anna, McKane Finkenbine led all scorers with 35 (6 of 12 from three-point range), Zach Ambos finished with 15, Drew Doseck and Hayden Huelskamp each had 3.

“We told the guys we had to attack,”  said Nate Barhorst about Anna’s dramatic comeback in the final quarter.  “We had to get them back on their heels.  I thought we did a pretty good job of playing downhill.  They were trying to take the air out of the ball, we continued to press, we made some shots, and credit to our guys for executing.  That’s how we got it back. And then it came down to the tail end of the game.

“Zach (Ambos) had a helluva’ night.  He may or may not have gotten fouled there at the end, but I thought there was definitely a shove in the back at the other end on a box-out rebound.  Again, I can’t sit here and point out this, and point out that.  There’s things we have to work on, but I was really pleased with the effort tonight.  It was a great springboard game to head into the tournament with.”

And a great example of Shelby County League basketball, like the man said.  The last two minutes said all you need to know about what people have said for years.  There’s nothing predictable about it.

When you think you’ve seen it all…you ain’t seen nothing, yet!

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