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The 2008 boys just can’t stop getting to the Elite Eight

Free throws win games, even in simulations.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Regional - Phoenix Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

For a long time it looked like it might not happen again. In a matchup of a team that was crippled by injury and dognapping and a team that got itself in serious trouble in the Sweet 16, it looked like the 2008 squad had finally dug themselves into a hole from which they could not escape.

The game started with a moment of levity amidst the drama. The 2006 team won the tip but defensive specialist Stanley Burrell (13/5/8) was lurking and stole the ball from Justin Cage (10/5/1). With a clear line to the hoop Burrell rose and... missed the dunk. The teams literally traded buckets until it stood at 11-11 with 14 minutes left in the first half. Then 2006 scored, and scored again, and scored again. Johnny Wolf (0/2/5) dished out two dimes in the run and Justin Doellman (10/5/2) drilled a three. The run ended at 16-2 and the 2008 team was down 27-13 in a world of hurt.

By the half they had trimmed the lead to 44-35 as BJ Raymond (16/6/2) scored a quick seven to keep his team in it. CJ Anderson (7/5/1) scored the first four out of the half, the final two with an emphatic dunk and suddenly the 14 point lead was down to five. A Raymond three trimmed it to two, but Will Caudle (7/3/0) scored four straight to push 2006 back out into a two possession lead. 2008 was find their range, though, and a Burrell three finally tied the game back up at 50 with 14 minutes left to play.

Drew Lavender (19/2/3) scored five straight and 2008 led 55-51, but 2006 would not go away that easily. Back and forth the teams went in an offensive thriller, neither able to gain the purchase or get the stops they needed to pull away. Despit having blown their lead, 06 didn’t fold. With four minutes to go, they dragged themselves back into the lead by one, 73-72.

Stan Burrell, 08 vintage, tipped in a miss to put his team back in the lead. The lead pushed to three when Josh Duncan (14/6/1) made two from the line. Back came 2006 when a finally healed Brian Thornton (14/8/2) scored again. Lavender made a runner in the lane (of course) but Justin Cage answered with a bucket of his own. The stage was set for high drama.

With 49 seconds to go, BJ Raymond found Josh Duncan open on the wing for a three and an 81-77 lead. Before the 2006 fans could even stop screaming, though, Justin Doellman silenced them with a corner three of his own off of a beautiful assist from Johnny Wolf. Brian Thornton got stuck in rotation on the ensuing inbound and was forced to foul Josh Duncan. Thornton was done for the game and Duncan, at 85.3% for the year, was nails from the line. When Stanley Burrell (22/3/5) missed a three for 2006, the writing was on the wall. The 2008 team was 20th in the nation in free throw percentage, and they weren’t letting this one slip. 30 seconds late they had once again earned the right to play for a trip to the Final Four, 87-80.