- Last Updated: 11:10 PM, August 10, 2012
- Posted: 9:54 AM, August 10, 2012
The ball was never supposed to be in Gary Ervin’s hands.
With 5.6 seconds remaining in overtime of a tie game, former St. Francis Prep star Rashad Bell was supposed to look at Darren Phillip or Gary Forbes in the post. Ervin signaled to Bell otherwise.
“Me and Bell have that eye to eye," the former Robeson star said of his Franchise teammate. “I told him, ‘Bell throw it to me.’ I begged him. I begged him to throw me the basketball.”
The ball sailed into the backcourt and into Ervin’s hands, the ones that also hit a winning runner in overtime in the semifinals two nights prior on the same basket. He quickly pushed the ball up court to the top of the key.
“When a player has that type of feeling [forget] it,” Bell said. “Give him the ball."
With a packed house at Baruch College looking on, Ervin stepped back and let a 3-pointer fly that found nothing but net as the buzzer sounded. The shot got him mobbed by his teammates as he circled the court in celebration of The Franchise’s thrilling 93-90 win over defending champion Dyckman in the Nike Pro City title game Thursday night in a rematch of last year’s final.
The buzzer beater, along with his 15 points, nine assists and MVP honors, was also a fitting present on Ervin’s 28th birthday.
“Every birthday is great, but this ranks high,” he said.
Added Bell: “Revenge is sweet.”
The crown is the Franchise’s second in the last three years. The victory was in memory of former coach and streetball legend John Strickland, who died in his sleep in October 2010. Ervin considers him one of his mentors and the team is named in his honor. After the win, coach Gary Prince showed off a “We are Strick” t-shirt and donned a backward baseball cap, a signature of Strickland’s coaching attire.
“Everybody loved him,” Bell said of Strickland. “He brought a certain charisma to the game. Everybody liked playing for him.”
Bell thought he won the game with a contested right elbow jumper with 35.4 seconds remaining in regulation that put The Franchise, which led by as many as 14 points, up 88-86. Boakai Laluggba converted a put back with 2.2 left to send the game to overtime. He had 15 points and Forbes had 19 and seven boards for the Franchise. Bryant Dunston tallied 17 points and 17 rebounds for Dyckman and Nate Brown added 17 points to go along with seven boards.
Trailing by two late in overtime, Bell created a steal that eventually led to former St. John’s star Justin Burrell catching a two-handed slam off a baseline inbounds pass from Ervin to tie the score at 90. Phillip, who grabbed 12 rebounds, came up with a big rebound and timeout while falling out of bounds to set up Ervin’s title-winning heroics.
“It’s Gary’s birthday,” Prince said. “For him to win the chip on his birthday is just extraordinary.”