WEEKI WACHEE — As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Ian Rose raced down the middle of the court.
The Crystal River junior got past half court and launched a desperation shot, and banked it in as time expired. He never broke stride as he circled back toward midcourt until he was tackled by his teammates in a frenzied celebration.
In that moment, the Pirates believed they just won a dramatic District 4A-6 semifinal at Weeki Wachee, stunning top-seeded The Villages in overtime. Except they hadn’t; not according to the referee who waved it off, forcing a second overtime.
Depleted by foul trouble and perhaps emotionally devastated, Crystal River succumbed to the highly ranked Buffaloes in the second extra period, 101-91.
“My kids came and competed very well tonight, played as hard as they could,” Crystal River head coach Jim Ervin said. “The end result wasn’t what we wanted, but our kids played as hard as they could. Great effort out of our young men tonight.
“It’s a call you deal with and there’s nothing you can do to change it at this point. You wish it could change, but it didn’t. So that’s all I’ve got to say. I wish things would have been different, but they weren’t.”
Though Ervin was composed and level-headed in delivering those postgame comments, seemingly everyone connected to the Pirates was irate with what they insisted was an incorrect call that likely robbed them of a chance at extending their season.
The Crystal River contingent said that numerous videos taken by those in the stands confirms their beliefs, however it is difficult to determine if the ball was still in Rose’s hand as time ran out.
That controversy overshadowed an incredible game and an inspired performance by the underdog Pirates, who came in seeded fourth with a record of 13-11. They lost at The Villages (19-6) on Jan. 3, 79-51.
Yet for most of the first three quarters, Crystal River was dominant, playing aggressively and making shots. Rose in particularly carved up the Buffaloes throughout, on his way to a 40-point night.
A 3-pointer made by Hudson Copeland pushed the lead to 38-24 with 1:05 to go in the half. That 14-point margin would be reached several times by Crystal River, the last at 58-44 late in the third quarter.
“We were patient early, and then we got out of being patient,” Ervin said. “End of third quarter, beginning of the fourth we lost patience, and that hurt us.”
The Villages finished the third on a 6-0 run, and extended that all the way to 22-4. The Buffaloes went in front 62-60 on a 3-pointer by Derek McCray with 5:46 to play and built as much as a 66-62 edge.
But the Pirates regrouped down the stretch. Rose made two clutch free throws in an 1-and-1 situation with 16 seconds remaining, and The Villages missed an attempted game-winner at the horn.
Continuing the back-and-forth battle through the first overtime, the game was tied at 83 when Copeland scored on a putback with 18.4 seconds left.
The Buffaloes failed to score on the other end, giving Crystal River and Rose just shy of enough time for a heroic finish.
By that point three starters had fouled out for the Pirates, allowing The Villages to hone in their defense on Rose and pull away. McCray had eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the second overtime.
McCray knocked down five shots from beyond the arc and ended up with 24 points plus five steals. Nasir Mann had 27 points, eight steals and five rebounds, and Ricardo Wright scored 27 points to go with six boards. Corey Goldwire added 12 points.
Aside from Rose, Crystal River received 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench from Brandon Vickers, and a double-double from Copeland with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ryan Helmdach chipped in 12 points.
While the Buffaloes likely would have advanced to regionals regardless given their second ranking in the region, the Pirates had no such safety net.
“It’s just tough,” Ervin said. “For our kids to play that hard during a basketball game and not actually have an opportunity to move on in the playoffs because of a judgment call, it’s tough on the kids.”