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Wolfpack lose heartbreaker

Clinging to a 55-53 lead with 1.9 seconds left in the Section 3AAAA semifinal game, Tartan's boys basketball team had all its attention focused on Park's Jay Melson.

Clinging to a 55-53 lead with 1.9 seconds left in the Section 3AAAA semifinal game, Tartan's boys basketball team had all its attention focused on Park's Jay Melson.


Steve Ramey stood out of bounds under Park's basket waiting to throw the ball in as Melson curled along the baseline out towards the three-point line. After scoring nine points in the fourth quarter and 21 in the game, the Titans were focusing all their energy in keeping Melson from touching the ball.


Unfortunately for Tartan's defense, its tunnel vision left junior Nick Dale wide open next to the basket.


Unfortunately for Dale, the Titans left him too open.


The 6-foot-8 backup center, who's first quarter paint presence kept Park in the game when Brady McMahon got into early foul trouble, leaked into the paint unmolested and Ramey delivered him the ball.

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But Dale's layup went too hard off the glass and dropped to the floor as the buzzer sounded, putting an end to Park's turnaround season.


"If anybody thinks that it comes down to that last shot, they don't understand things very well," coach Tim Walton said. "In such a great competitive game there are several areas where we had chances to change the outcome of the game. It's unfortunate that's what is talked about the most."


During the contest, however, it was the Wolfpack's grit that likely became conversation among the packed house at St. Paul Arlington.


Park fell behind early giving up the first six points, but trailed only by three after the first quarter. Tartan again built a lead in the second quarter and were up by eight with just under two minutes to play in the half. But back-to-back threes from reserve Andrew Harrington brought the Wolfpack within two points at intermission.


Despite a tremendous size disadvantage (Tartan has five players 6-5 or taller), Park was able to keep pace with the Titans.


"Size was a concern," Walton said. "We had to deny the ball, the passes into the post area. We had to count on good back side help. The trick with that is if they skip the ball across, you give up the perimeter shot. Our kids did a good job forcing them to make the shot."


In addition to the defense of the front line, Ramey and fellow guard Jayson Almodovar did a solid job dictating the pace and not allowing Tartan to force them into poor decisions.


In the second half, the Wolfpack stayed close the entire way, but never got closer than a one-point deficit in the third quarter. Park cut the score to 47-45 early in the fourth quarter, but gave up a six-point run immediately thereafter to fall behind by eight with 4:46 left.

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But again the Wolfpack roared back and Ramey cut the lead to two with a steal and layup with two minutes left. After a Tartan turnover, Park kept possession the rest of the way, using three timeouts over the span to set up plays. After a foiled alley-oop attempt to Melson and a Ramey layup that was blocked with 1.9 seconds left, Park's final shot wound up too strong and the Wolfpack contingent left St. Paul stunned.


"Everyone just fulfilled their roles to the utmost, 100 percent," Walton said. "My mind tells me that the kids did everything that we asked of them and they asked of each other. But my guts still ache about the way it had to end."

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