Boxing had the “Thrilla in Manila.” Football had the “Immaculate Reception.” Baseball had the “Shot Heard Around the World.” And now basketball has Kennedy High Lady Eagles’ “Three Against Five.”
In what might be the most famous basketball game ever played at Coach Dolly Felix Gym, the Lady Eagles defeated the Hercules Lady Titans Friday night on a last-second shot while playing the last 55 seconds of the game with only three players.
With the score knotted at 70, and only six seconds left in regulation, Hercules’ sophomore guard Lauryn Ponce stepped to the line for a one-and-one. With ice running in her veins she sank the first one, and gave the Lady Titans a one-point lead.
That’s when the magic happened. With everyone in the gym on their feet, Ponce missed her second attempt, and the ball fell right into freshman guard Vicki Sims’s hands. Sims took the ball and raced the full length of the court for a contested layup.
And much like an ESPN highlight, pandemonium ensued, as fans rushed the court to celebrate the unthinkable. The win moved the Lady Eagles to 7-0 in the Tri-County Stone League, and sealed their first conference title in more than 10 years.
“This is a huge accomplishment for our school and our community,” Lady Eagles head coach Rae Jackson told his players and alumni in the locker room after the game. “I love Richmond. And now everybody knows you don’t need to go to Hercules, Pinole or El Cerrito—they can come right here to the ‘K’ and be winners.”
After the gym cleared and there were only a few empty soda cans left sitting the bleachers, Lady Eagles assistant coach Dajuan Alexander said that in his 15 years of coaching he’s never seen a game as intense. “It was a beautiful thing to see that much adversity overcome,” he said.
The game had it all, including the unsavory. That’s when Lady Eagles sophomore guard Lexius Meriwhether let her emotions get the best of her. With 3:28 remaining in the third quarter, and Kennedy up 49-41, Meriwhether was fouled hard by Titans guard Etiene Ekanem as she drove to the basket. Both players hit the deck, but Meriwhether came up swinging. And after a brief scuffle that cleared the Kennedy bench, and alerted a Richmond police officer, both players were ejected from the game. Lady Eagles reserve center Tada McClain was also cited for leaving the bench during the melee and had to leave the game.
With a quarter-and-a-half remaining, the ejections left the already shorthanded Kennedy team with only five players. No one sat the bench. The situation was made even worse because Lady Eagles senior guard Raven Caldwell and junior forward Kaylonii Bardell were both in foul trouble. Caldwell fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, while Bardell fouled out with 55 seconds left in the game.
But as ugly as the ejections were, and as costly as Caldwell and Bardell fouling out were, what set the stage for the miraculous come-from-behind win was the absence of Lady Eagles junior forward Julian Robinson and senior leader Tye Carminer. Both missed the game with flu-like symptoms and a tender knee, respectively.
But that didn’t matter to Hercules Lady Titans head coach Daniel Guy. Guy said before the game he hoped the absence of Robinson and Carminer would help his team win, but acknowledge Kennedy was still very talented. “Any of their starters could start at Hercules,” he said. “They don’t have to play their best game to win this. We do.”
After the game Raven Caldwell was still in disbelief that they had just won a game with three players. “Really? Three on five?” she kept asking herself. “I ain’t never won league. And we did it with three players? We’re unstoppable!”