It was a shot you had to see to believe.
A shot that no one, including the player that unleashed it, could believe went in.
A shot that will go down in the storied history of the Kent State-Akron men's basketball rivalry as one of the biggest -- and most bizarre.
A shot that may ultimately salvage the Golden Flashes' season.
Senior forward Darren Goodson kissed an off-balance, desperation 3-pointer off the glass from the top of the arc with 1.6 seconds left, whipping his teammates and the M.A.C. Center crowd some 6,181 strong into a frenzy, while giving his Flashes a 60-57 victory over their bitter backyard rival they so desperately needed.
Goodson took a shovel pass from junior point guard Kris Brewer with the clock ticking, and basically had to just let it rip while under heavy duress.
"I saw (Brewer) coming at me, and the first thought in my mind was just to get a shot off and give us a chance to get an offensive rebound," said Goodson. "But it went in."
Was that the biggest shot of Goodson's career?
"Yes sir," he smiled.
Thanks to Goodson's good fortune, Kent State (12-9, 3-5 Mid-American Conference) snapped a four-game losing streak that included a pair of demoralizing home losses that staggered the troops. He was the only KSU player in double figures with 12 points, although five others scored six or more led by junior guard Derek Jackson (9 points, 3 steals) and Brewer (8 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover).
Goodson himself had struggled as much as anyone during a stretch of seven losses in the last nine games, and his foul-plagued Saturday evening started with five missed shots.
But Goodson drained four straight field goals in the final 5:02, including the incredible game-winner.
"I'm really happy for Darren as much as anything, because during our tough stretch, he's probably taken the brunt of the criticism player-wise," said KSU coach Rob Senderoff. "There's nobody on our roster who cares about being at Kent more than Darren does. I know he hasn't had the greatest of years so far, but I think tonight will go down in the annals as one of the biggest shots in the rivalry's history."
For Flashes fans, Goodson's game-winner brought back memories of the shot Al Fisher drained at Akron in 2008, which gave Kent State a 61-58 win and the MAC regular-season title. It also provided a fitting cap to quite possibly the most frenzied final minute in the storied history of this bitter backyard rivalry.
The Zips (14-7, 6-2) had trimmed a six-point deficit to two at 55-53 after a Quincy Diggs layup with 51 seconds left. The Flashes then struggled to get the ball in-bounds, and Brewer couldn't control an entry pass from Jackson in the corner. Possession was originally awarded to Kent State, but the call was overturned.
Flashes sophomore Kellon Thomas -- all 5-foot-11 (according to the roster) and 190 pounds of him -- then stood in and took a charge from 6-7, 235-pound Zips senior star forward Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell to give KSU the ball back with 45 ticks to go.
"It probably was a good call, but it was a tough call," said Zips coach Keith Dambrot. "A little 5-10 guy on a 6-7 guy, you almost know what's gonna happen. He's gonna lay down."
The Flashes' in-bounding struggles continued, as junior guard Devareaux Manley caught a pass in the same corner, was trapped, and stumbled backwards out of bounds with 41 seconds to go. This time the Zips took advantage, as Treadwell backed Goodson down and scored to knot the contest at 57 with 34 seconds to go.
At this point, memories of some recent meltdowns in the waning moments of games had to be swirling through the minds of KSU fans. But the players remained positive.
"We had a meeting (after losing at home to Northern Illinois on Wednesday), and one of the things we said was that we have to stay focused and stay together, no matter what happens," said Goodson. "Tonight we battled as brothers, and we won the game. Everybody believed that we were gonna win."
That belief helped produce a miracle.
With the shot clock off, Brewer dribbled the closing seconds away. He tried to make a move with about six seconds left, but was cut off and was forced to shovel the ball to Goodson, about 25 feet from the basket.
Goodson dribbled to his right and unleashed an off-balance heave from beyond the top of the 3-point arc that kissed the square and caromed through the chords as a stunned M.A.C. Center crowd went wild.
"I didn't take a timeout because I knew what we wanted to do, and I didn't want them to set their defense," said Senderoff. "We ran our staple play. We had run it earlier and Darren hit the 3 to put us up six. I wanted to make sure we took the last shot no matter what. They defended it well. It's about time we got a break."
Although Goodson didn't call glass, he did say that freshman teammate Marquiez Lawrence called the shot.
"After I got my fourth foul (with 8:43 left) I went to the bench and I put my head down, and Marquiez Lawrence said, 'You're gonna hit the shot to win the game'," said Goodson. "It's crazy."
Like in the final minute, momentum swung like a pendulum throughout the contest.
Kent State trailed by seven early on, hitting just three of its first 11 shots, but closed the first half with an 11-2 run while Goodson was on the bench with two fouls to take a 26-22 halftime lead.
Akron quickly erased the deficit with a 6-0 run, but Kent State used a 6-0 run of its own to regain the lead at 41-37 on a driving layup by Manley.
A 3-pointer by Goodson pushed the KSU advantage to 55-49 with 2:50 to play. But after taking good care of the basketball for the entire game, the Flashes turned it over four times in the last two minutes.
"We had some turnovers late that let them get back in the game, but I was proud of our resolve," said Senderoff. "At no point did the guys on the team not think that they were gonna win."
While Goodson's winning shot was a fortunate one, Kent State also did a lot of things right to put itself in position to win. The Flashes outscored the more physically gifted Zips 36-30 in the paint, hung tough on the glass (33-27 Akron), and forced 18 UA turnovers that they turned into 16 points.
Treadwell finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but also committed five turnovers and didn't dominate the game as feared. Senior Quincy Diggs scored 15 points, but turned it over four times himself, while third-leading scorer Jake Kretzer was blanked.
Now the Flashes will focus on a future that suddenly holds much more promise. They started 2-5 a year ago, but wound up 9-7 in the league, and nearly advanced to the MAC Tournament title game, falling by four to the eventual champion Zips.
"We sort of wiped the slate clean (after the NIU loss)," said Senderoff. "We even took a new team picture before practice (Friday), it's in our locker room. I don't care what our record says, we're now 1-0. That's what we put on the board before the game, and that's what we put on it afterward. As far as I'm concerned we're 1-0."
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