St. Bonaventure vs. Niagara Basketball Game

On Saturday, January 27, 1979, I experienced one of the most amazing single game comebacks in sports history, probably exceeding Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass in the 1984 game between Boston College and Miami.

I was at a college basketball game near Buffalo, NY watching St. Bonaventure University take on Niagara. Four of us drove the two hours from Olean, NY to watch St. Bonaventure try to improve on their 10-5 record. As I recall, they were ranked 25th in the country at the time, so the Niagara crowd was rooting for a big upset. All of the St. Bonaventure fans were sitting at one end of the court, behind a glass backboard.

The game was winding down. There was one second on the clock, Niagara was ahead 64-62 and was shooting a one-and-one. If they made the first free throw, they’d get a second, otherwise the ball is in play. I looked at my friend Randy Cassidy and asked if he wanted to leave to beat the crowd out. The chances of winning were virtually nil. Randy reminded me of the quote popularized by Al Mcguire (former coach of Marquette University) that “the game’s never over until the fat lady sings”. Thankfully, we stayed.

What happened next is probably the longest basketball shot ever made in a do-or-die situation. Chick Lyles of Niagara missed the front end of the one-and-one. The ball clanked off the rim and into the outstretched arm of Delmar Harrod, who hurled the ball as the buzzer sounded. The Niagara crowd flooded the court to soak in the grand upset, with the ball sailing over their heads. We were in direct line of sight of the shot, the ball moving away from us and toward the opposite rim. We were standing, staring and screaming as the ball traveled 80 feet in 3 seconds and went into the basket, nothing but net.

This was before the three point shot, so the basket tied the game 66-66. It took the officials 10 minutes to clear the court and start the overtime. St. Bonaventure won the game 74-72.

It’s never over until it’s over.