4.8 seconds on the clock. Down one, with the length of the court to go. They had enough time to get a shot off, but the odds were stacked against the Loyola Ramblers’ Men’s Basketball team.
The Loyola faithful stood in silent anticipation as the players took their places on the floor.
And then suddenly everything flew into motion.
Matt O’Leary tossed the inbound pass to Christian Thomas who aggressively dribbled the ball to half court. Milton Doyle, coming off a screen, called for the ball. It was his game to win.
One dribble, two dribbles. Doyle rose up over two defenders from way behind the three point line and released the ball.
Behind the net, Ramblers fans erupted in euphoria. The bench rushed Doyle, jumping up and down as the Loyola band played the fight song.
The Ramblers, seated in the MVC’s cellar, had just defeated Bradley to advance to the second round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
”Milt hit a great shot,” Coach Porter Moser said. “That was a great shot!”
While it was Doyle who finished the game for the Ramblers, guards Devon Turk and Jeff White helped Loyola explode out of the gate.
The Ramblers scored 43 points in the first half, which was five more than what they managed in the entirety of their last game against Bradley. Turk and White went a combined 6-7 from behind the three-point line.
Coach Moser attributes the stellar three point shooting percentage to team play.
“We really made a focus on passing up a decent shot to get a better shot,” Coach Moser said. “And [the team] bought in.”
However the eight point lead Loyola built in the first half could not be sustained in the second. Bradley seniors Tyshon Pickett and Walt Lemon Jr., fighting to continue their collegiate careers, scored a combined 49 points. Pickett had an answer every time Loyola tried to pull away in the second half, whether it was from behind the arc, at the free throw line, or in the paint.
But whatever Pickett and Lemon Jr. could do, Doyle could do better.
In the closing minutes of the game Doyle hit a tough midrange jumper, a spinning left-handed layup, and netted two huge free throws in order to just get himself the opportunity to hit a last second shot.
And hit a last second shot he did.
While it was a season high for the Ramblers, it was a gut-wrenching low for Lemon Jr.
“I’m at a loss for words. It’s hard to end a season like that,” Lemon Jr. said. “My college career is over.”
In a split second, the Bradley Braves went from advancing to play Indiana State to heading into the offseason.
“It was a disappointing end to the game and a disappointing end to the year,” said Bradley Coach Geno Ford.
Instead it’s the Ramblers advancing to play the Indiana State Sycamores.
White believed limiting turnovers is the most important key to winning the matchup.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball every possession,” White said.
Combine that with a little more late game Doyle magic and the Ramblers have a recipe for taming the Madness under the Arch.