FORT WAYNE — Friday night’s Northeast Hoosier Conference match-up between Columbia City and Homestead was everything it was predicted to be.
Nearly every fan in the stands was shocked as the buzzer rang, and Homestead won the game with a desperation 3-pointer, 59-58.
“The fans definitely got their money’s worth,” Columbia City head coach Chris Benedict said.
And there was quite a turnout. Announcers asked fans to sit shoulder-to-shoulder at the game that had more people than seats.
“The environment of this game was great,” Benedict said.
The thriller began early in the fourth quarter, when Columbia City found itself buried in a 51-42 hole with six minutes left to play.
Drew Benedict stepped up to knock down three unanswered 3-pointers — all more than five feet beyond the arc — to tie the score at 51 with 4:21 on the clock.
Homestead’s Nick Gambel took over the Spartans offense from then, knocking down a 3-pointer of his own with three minutes left to play.
Derek Hinen worked his way to the free-throw line, knocking down one freebie to make the score 54-52.
But Gamble wasn’t going to give the game away, scoring again for the Spartans with 1:32 to play, putting Columbia City in a four-point deficit.
Austin Paul returned with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one with 52.3 seconds left, and Hinen hit another free throw to tie the score at 56 with 30.8 seconds on the clock.
While it appeared Homestead was going to have the last shot at scoring, the Spartans threw the ball away with 13.2 seconds left, giving Columbia City what most fans thought was the final possession.
Paul got the ball at the top of the key, drove to the hoop and got fouled with five seconds to play. He knocked down both free throws, making the score 58-56 and leaving little opportunity for Homestead to win the game. But Nick Gamble found a way.
Gamble spinned and cut through Columbia City’s defense and let a desperation 3-pointer fly as the buzzer sounded. The gym was silent, and fans held their breath as the ball soared through the air — and swished through the net.
Gamble’s 3-pointer was just enough for the 59-58 win, and Homestead’s court was flooded with students, cheerleaders and fans, while the Eagles were left stunned.