The scoreboard would argue that every point of Khai Pugh’s 17-point performance in the 74-71 Rome Free Academy held the same value, but people who headed out to Onondaga Community College for the Peppino’s Invitational and watched Fayetteville-Manlius’ junior in the final seconds would beg to differ.
As the time on the clock was wilting away and RFA (0-1) watching its potential game-winning layup rim in and out, Pugh shielded off a Black Knight, grabbed the defensive rebound, and started sprinting to the other basket.
He looked up, saw that there was just two seconds left, and let it go. The buzzer sounded and time stood still until the three most important points of the night went through the net. The gymnasium exploded as spectators realized that F-M (2-1) had just accomplished something special.
Pugh, who finished with 17 points, took us through the mindset that he adopted as he decided to take that shot.
“The first thing I said in my head was, ‘I don’t want overtime,’ because if we go into overtime, there’s a chance we lose,” Pugh said, “I just double-clutched passed the defender and let it fly.”
The junior also said that he feels that he is the leader of this team and wants “to bring back the fun and friendship there hasn’t been in a while,” but also said that he needs his teammates just like they need him. He said that he has become a be leader because his guys look up to him.
A few seconds prior to Pugh’s shot, with 38.7 seconds left, Tyler Schneider ran across the baseline, caught a pass from Nick Papa, drilled the three, got fouled, and completed the four-point play to tie the game.
Those four points or Pugh’s bank shot wouldn’t have a lot of meaning if the Hornets allowed time and score to dictate their mindset.
In other words, when the crowd believed that the game was over and RFA was going to win in blowout fashion, the F-M bench didn’t. Even when the Hornets were down 15 points at the half and the deficit grew to 21 by the two-minute mark in the third, the sideline had a lot of confidence.
Off the bench, F-M received production from Alex Bychkov. The senior had 13 points, just like Schneider had. Bychkov, who was named Player of the Game, came up big throughout the contest, as he had a few big shots and defended well.
Defense was also a strength for Brad Procita, who played with a sense of urgency and scored 15 to help the Hornets get the win.
F-M’s next game is Friday night at Jamesville-DeWitt and RFA visits Cicero-North Syracuse on Tuesday.