September 26, 2016

Game of the year: Buzzer beater on Bunch’s birthday

In 28 years of coaching, Webster Head Men’s Basketball Coach Chris Bunch has lost one time on his birthday. The loss came to Lindenwood University Jan. 23, 2012.

The game was scheduled because the Webster athletic department was guaranteed a payout from the Division II school.

“We lost by like 25 and I made the comment I broke my streak with that one, and somebody said, ‘Well, that’s just stupid on your part for scheduling that game that day,’” Bunch said.

Four years later, in a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) tilt, Bunch would not be denied on his fourty-ninth birthday. Webster junior forward C.J. Moore put up the final six points for the Gorloks in a victory over Greenville (Ill.), including his first game-winning shot as time expired. Webster won 108-106.

“At first, I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked, and I just started yelling,” Moore said.

His teammates followed suit and stormed the court to hug Moore, while Bunch went to the locker room. The shot allowed Webster to maintain a share of third place in the SLIAC conference standings. A loss would have sent them down to ninth.

With 10:44 remaining in the second half, Webster trailed by 13. During the season, Greenville adopted a new style of play called the Grinnell system, a fast paced system relying on three-point shots, full-court presses and quick substitutions. The style of play makes for a back-and-forth down the court type of game. Bunch said it was difficult to stay focused because of all the possessions each team had.

“You could be playing along and just think everything is great, and then in a minute and a half, they’ll make a 12-point run on you,” Bunch said. “You never relax when you’re playing someone doing that stuff.”

A three-pointer from junior forward Hunter Ward and a pair of free-throws by freshman forward Evan Milligan cut the Webster deficit down to one with 1:54 remaining. The rest of the game was handed off to Moore.

A Greenville foul sent Moore to the free-throw line for two shots and a chance to give the Gorloks the lead. Moore admitted that free-throws are not one of his strengths, but he made both.

“It’s just a mental part of the game I just struggled with,” Moore said. “You miss so many, it rims out. It’s tough to see that. I was just locked in. It was me and the hoops.”

Moore would go on to make two more free-throws before Greenville junior guard Michael Hohm buried a three to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining.  If enough time was to run out, Webster would get the final shot.

When Bunch began coaching high school, a “disproportionate” amount of buzzer beaters went against him. Nineteen in one season got the coach paranoid when the game came down to buzzer beaters.

“I was so adamant that I would almost hit some kid with a chair if he shot too soon, because if they got that last shot, it’s going in. I didn’t care if it’s from 80 feet, it [was] going in,” Bunch said.

As time began to tick, Ward missed a three-pointer with five seconds remaining. Milligan stormed to the basket to collect the rebound, and missed the follow-up shot. The ball bounced off the front of the rim to Moore, who stood in the middle of the key with seconds to get one final shot off.

“That is definitely number one because it was my first [game-winning] shot ever, so it will always be number one in my heart,” Moore said.

Moore made the layup with no time left on the clock.

As the rest of the team walked off the floor and back to the locker room, Bunch was waiting at the door. Moore grabbed Bunch around the shoulder and whispered something in his ear.

“I told him, ‘Listen, I was going to give you all I have [on your birthday],’” Moore said.

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