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Decade’s best No. 10: Mansfield lost in controversial fashion in 2010 state playoffs in boys basketball

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a series looking back at the Top 10 boys basketball teams, coaches, games and players from the last decade.

By itself, this second round Class A state tournament game was outstanding. Mansfield rallying from a 13-point second-quarter deficit, Lebanon Catholic hitting a buzzer-beating basket to force overtime and the Beavers pulling out their sixth overtime victory that season provided Shakespeare-like drama.

What really makes it memorable is the controversy surrounding eight crucial seconds late in overtime. For lack of a better phrase, let’s call this the “Six Players Game.” Lebanon led by two with 23 seconds remaining when it had an inbounder look for one of five Beaver teammates on the court. The inbounder passed it in and instantly became the sixth man.

Despite three referees looking at the action, DVD replays showed six Lebanon players shared the floor for approximately eight seconds as Mansfield coaches and fans protested and its players frantically tried fouling. The replay shows the sixth Beaver sprint to the middle of the bench and sit down when Lebanon realized what was happening. Three seconds later, Mansfield’s Patrick Cummings fouled Michael Wolfe who drained two free throws and sealed the 51-47 win.

It should have been Mansfield shooting free throws. Had the referees noticed Lebanon had six players on the court during those eight seconds a technical foul would have been called and Mansfield would have had two foul shots and the ball. The Tigers would have sent 82 percent foul shooter Luke Berguson to the line. He might have made them, missed one or missed both. Who knows? Who knows what would have happened on the ensuing Mansfield possession as well? Still, the no-call on a blatant violation was an awful way for Mansfield to conclude a district championship season.

To his credit, Mansfield coach Kipper Burleigh did not blame the referees for the game’s outcome afterward, but to this day, all those who participated in the game are left wondering what would have happened had the right call been made.

“There’s 1,920 seconds in a game and in those 1,920 the eight kids who played for Mansfield, at least one of them missed a free throw, missed a layup, had a turnover, missed a loose ball, missed a close-out. If we do one of those things we win the game and that’s how we lost,” Burleigh said. “That’s what I told them to take from this. All of society will make excuses for losing and in my mind they got beat in regulation and that’s what I want them to take from this and give a lot of credit to Lebanon Catholic.”

The shame is that the no-call is remembered more than how great this game was. Mansfield had a well-rounded, deep and resilient team that season which captured the program’s second district championship in four seasons. The Tigers finished 23-5 and won 18 of 19 games entering the Lebanon game, defeating rival Wellsboro for the NTL-West championship before winning three straight thrillers in districts against Lourdes, Sayre and defending champion Millville by 11 combined points. Berguson was an all-state forward, Jakob Nance was tough inside, Cale Correll stretched the defense, Marquis Delgago was a versatile threat on both ends and Cummings ignited a tenacious defense. On top of that, this was a tough-minded team which kept pulling out hard-fought wins, ending a 61-50 first-round state tournament win against Pius X by outscoring it 18-8 in the fourth quarter.

Mansfield displayed its toughness again after Lebanon threatened to blow things open, building a 17-4 second-quarter lead. The Tigers had lost in the second round a year earlier and were determined to not let history repeat itself, pulling within seven by halftime and two entering the fourth quarter. Nance (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Berguson (17 points) gave Lebanon fits and Berguson’s tough up and under driving basket gave Mansfield a 41-39 lead with 22 seconds remaining.

Cummings nearly made a steal on the final Beaver possession, but Lebanon kept the ball and both teams exchanged timeouts with three seconds remaining. Lebanon then executed its play to perfection as Darius Zook received a lob pass and hit a fall-away shot as time expired, forcing overtime.

“Mansfield made a good adjustment but he (Wolfe) made a nice pass and got the ball to me where I had some room to separate and get off a shot and I just knew I had to put it up and hit it,” Zook said afterward. “Coach then told us we had worked too hard to lose now and we just came out and did what we needed to do. We didn’t want to go home.”

Neither did Mansfield, but Nick Fortna scored eight straight Lebanon points and two big 3-pointers answered Mansfield after it had tied the game and pulled within one on consecutive possessions. Jordan Derstine pulled Mansfield within 49-47 with 47 seconds remaining. Zook grabbed an offensive rebound moments later, setting the controversial finish in motion.

“The kids don’t think they can lose in overtime. They are a resilient group,” Lebanon coach Scott Clentimack said after his team improved to 6-0 in overtime. “That’s the way they’ve been all year in tight games. It’s certainly not the coaches. The kids are the ones who have to make the plays and they’ve done it all year.”

Mansfield did that as well and the seniors graduated with two district championships, four state tournament wins and a state quarterfinal appearance. A year later Mansfield returned to the district final and state tournament and has remained a perennial title contender since, producing 12 straight winning seasons. This team certainly helped lay a strong foundation.

“They’re dedicated and for such a huge part of their lives have worked so hard to reach team goals and that is going to help them in life,” Burleigh said. “They’re all going to be successful because they are high-quality kids.”

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