Nothing could stop the 1989-90 Patroons from winning their third CBA championship. Not the loss of their superfan, Fritz Walker. Not an 8-8 start and screams from the fans for coach Gerald Oliver's head on a silver platter. Not switching to the Knickerbocker Arena after 7½ years in the Armory. And not falling behind 2-0 to Pensacola in the first round of the playoffs. And not falling behind 3-2 to LaCrosse in the second round of the playoffs.
Any one of these could stop a lesser team. But the Patroons prevailed over all, and won Game 6 over LaCrosse, 113-99, forcing a seventh and deciding game for the right to represent the American Conference in the CBA Championship.
Five thousand fans came to the Knick that night, most of them receiving megaphones as they entered the arena. The megaphones were in honor of "Mac the Fan," a leather-lunged heckler who sat behind the visitor's bench and roared invective at the opponents. When the Pats moved out of the Armory, Mac's seat was too far away from the bench, forcing him to employ a megaphone to get his message across.
Albany chugged through the fourth quarter leading 87-79, and when Vince Askew's two free throws put Albany ahead, 94-91, there were only seven seconds left between now and a berth in Albany's third championship series. Timeout Catbirds.
Both teams knew LaCrosse would try a three pointer and tie the game. "I thought it would be [Carlos] Clark or [Tony] White or Andre [Turner], even [Brian] Rahilly," said Clinton Smith to the Times-Union's Tim Wilkin. "I never thought it would be Dwayne."
Carlos Clark inbounded the ball to Andre Turner. Instantly three Patroons swarmed around him like bees to a flower. Turner jumped up and passed off to Dwayne McClain, the former Villanova Wildcat. McClain bounced the ball twice and stepped back behind the three-point line.
The clock ticked down. Seven seconds - six - five -
Before anybody could get in McClain's way, he fired a three-point shot towards the basket.
The clock ticked down. Swish. Three points for LaCrosse; score tied 94-94, end of regulation.
"At this level, it's definitely the biggest shot I've ever made," McClain later told Mike MacAdam of the Gazette. "My biggest concern was finding the line. I found it, the shot felt good, and when it feels good, anything's possible. Give credit to Andre, though, for finding me."
The game was still close in overtime, as LaCrosse led 100-99 with a minute left to play. Bill Martin received possession from a jump ball. He passed to Turner, with 30 seconds left in the OT. Turner kept the ball until he was fouled, 12 seconds remaining. He swished two free throws, putting the game - and the championship series - out of reach for Albany.
There was no joy in the locker room that evening. All the Patroons talked about was the shot Dwayne McClain made in the closing seconds of regulation. "[The shot] was completely demoralizing," said Clinton Smith to the Gazette. "It was the play of the night. We knew we still had overtime, but that shot took us right out of it."
"I hate losing," said Coach Gerald Oliver to the Times-Union's Roger Brigham. "I've got 50 ways I can replay this one, and I'll replay them all. I'm disappointed in myself because I thought my responsibility was to win a CBA championship."
But after the game, the Catbirds had nothing but praise for their opponents. "I thought that this was the championship series," said LaCrosse coach Flip Saunders to the Troy Record. "I guess it was fitting the game ended how it did ... It's gonna be tough for us, emotionally, to come from a game like tonight and play on Friday [against the Rapid City Thrillers for the CBA Championship]."
The final word on the series came from LaCrosse's Andre Turner. "All year long we thought Albany was the best team in the league besides ourselves," he told the Record. "We knew that every time we played 'em, whether at home or at their place, it was gonna be a dogfight."
Turner 9-16 6-6 24, Clark 6-5 0-1 12, Martin 3-7 3-1 9, Rahilly 5-11 0-0 10, McClain 7-14 2-2 17, White 4-9 4-4 12, Hamilton 0-0 0-0, Johnson 0-1 0-0, Williams 5-8 10-12 20. Totals 39-81 25-28 104.
Smith 10-14 5-6 25, Askew 5-19 7-8 17, Elie 9-25 5-7 23, Pearson 5-12 0-0 10, McDuffie 0-2 4-4 4, Burtt 2-9 7-8 11, Queenan 3-8 3-4 9. Totals 34-89 31-37 99.
LaCROSSE 25-20-21-28-10 104 ALBANY 27-22-22-23-5 99Three-point goals - McClain. Rebounds: LaCrosse 46 (Rahilly 11, Clark 10), Albany 43 (McDuffie 11). Assists: LaCrosse 19 (Turner 10), Albany 15 (Askew 5). Total fouls: LaCrosse 25, Albany 26. Technical fouls: Smith (unsportsmanlike conduct). A-5,481.
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