Story:Final Moment (A FBADL Finals Report)
Final Moment (A FBADL Finals Report)
Written by JWolfman
In March of 2015, the FBADL Finals were between the Omaha Shuckers and the Connecticut Dots. It was a hard fought affair, with the strong teams taking two wins apiece to force a Game Five to determine the season’s champion. The Dots’ Harper Ross went on a scoring spree that netted him 46 points, which still exists to this day as the record for most points scored in a FBADL Final and even for a FBA Final. Despite his efforts though, it was the last-second shot that he was known best for, in which he missed.
As the Omaha players and fans celebrated, photographer Allen Respawe snapped a photo of Harper Ross on his knees with his arms folded above his head. The expression of shock and despair on his face was clear, and the image became one of the most famous in the history of the sport.
Harper Ross called it quits and quietly retired from the sport. The photograph haunted him and he had been known to tell reporters to not mention about the incident during interviews. He had changed careers, started a family, and simply moved on with his life.
Fast forward five years to the 2020 FBADL Finals which was now contested between the expansion team Birmingham Forge and the Idaho Mounties. Instead of it being a hotly contested battle however, the Finals became a slaughter as the Forge dominated the first two games, including a lop-sided Game Two when the Forge held all the Idaho players to single-digit scoring. With their backs to the wall and at home in Game Three however, the Mounties fought back, leading the first half and most of the second before the Forge retook the lead up to the closing seconds.
Ever since she was drafted in 2007, Mika Ziggler donned the uniforms of eight FBA teams and it was by complete irony that she ended up back in the Idaho Mounties, this time in the FBADL. Although her career spanned for thirteen years now, she remained hopeful that she would return to the FBA, but on this moment, she found herself on the brink of losing her chance of wearing a championship ring, even if it was just for the Developmental League.
With the Mounties down by two with just two and a half seconds to go in the game, Birmingham’s Rudolf Deraine suddenly fouled Idaho’s Vic Andrews, and the Idaho home crowd hushed as the huge canine walked up to the Free Throw line. After several moments of careful breathing and concentration, Andrews attempts his first shot.
The home crowd cheered loudly as the score came within just one point, 74-73. As Andrews slowly prepares for the second shot, the crowd hushed once more, wondering what he would try to do. Would he make the second shot to tie the game and force overtime, or will he miss and hopefully another Mounties player catch the rebound?
All eyes were on the ball as it arched in the air… and it bounced off the rim. Underneath were a sudden mess of bodies, wearing the colors of Idaho red or Birmingham orange, as they congregated on the paint. A flurry of hands rose up in the air as the ball descended, and the webbed-hands of the otter Mika Ziggler grabbed onto the ball tightly. Realizing it was too risky to tap the ball back toward the hoop, Ziggler landed with the offensive rebound and the clock resumed counting down.
Two seconds... one...
With one last chance, Ziggler leaped as Birmingham defenders swarmed around her and lobbed the ball with a short hop toward the basket. The backboard lit up along with the final buzzer, signalling the end of the game… and the ball made two cycles around the rim before it fell off. The crowd groaned and gasped in horror as the ball harmlessly bounced away, and the Birmingham players crowded together with smiles and their fists raised in the air victoriously. In their debut season, the Birmingham Forge has won a championship, and did so by sweeping their opponents in the Finals.
Mirroring what happened with Harper Ross five years ago, a photographer at courtside snapped a picture of a crest-fallen Mika Ziggler as she looked up at the overhanging video screens that showed the replay of the game’s last seconds, and the final score. She rested her hands on her hips but her face told everything that needed to be said. She had the opportunity to keep Idaho’s championship ambitions alive, and missed.
Birmingham 74, Idaho 73.
And just like that, the season ended.
The tall, lithe otter sat hunched over at the table in the conference room in front of a few reporters. She stared down at the table, not making eye contact with anyone. An uncomfortable silence permeated the room for a few moments before she spoke, responding to a generic question basically asking her to describe how she felt.
"Disappointed, obviously..." she said, speaking with a low, defeated tone. "I had my shot... just didn't go." She shrugged and sighed. "I would've loved to come through for my team tonight to keep our chances alive. Just wasn't in the cards I guess."
She adjusted her posture in her seat and combed through her floppy mohawk hair with her webbed fingers, trying to compose herself. "It hurts when you get that close and just fall short... I'm probably gonna think about that one for a while. But at the same time, I'm proud we were able to get that far. Proud of my teammates. We gave it our all."
"I just wish... maybe if I tipped it. Maybe I could've..." then she paused for a second before shaking her head and slouching back down in her chair. "Whatever. It's over. We lost... feels bad man."
It’s often the little, precise moments that linger in our minds the most. We remember Klaus Korber’s final shot in the 2017 FBA Finals but forget about how brutal Tallahassee and Montana fought for seven long games. We remember Apiatan Redmane’s last-second shot that gave the Albany Alphas a championship in 2016, but forget about Rodger Umaechi’s steal just a few seconds earlier, crushing the Seattle Summit’s championship dreams.
We remember Harper Ross’ look of rejection after his last-second miss in 2015, but forget his 46-point scoring effort.
We remember Mika Ziggler’s rebound and last-second failed attempt, but forget how hard she struggled to come back to the FBA.
We remember the bad moments and the good experiences surrounding it fade into memory obscurity. A single negative off-the-cuff remark can overshadow a crowd’s worth of encouragement.
Such is sports. Such is life.