Goodson hits the sweet shot

Gerry Ahern

PORTLAND, Ore. – Demetri Goodson isn't even the best athlete in his family. That distinction goes to his bigger, stronger, older brother Mike, a star running back at Texas A&M.

Demetri's previous highlight reel came in the West Coast Conference tournament title game when the 5-foot-11, 164-pound freshman came off the bench to score 11 points against St. Mary's. A nice night, but nothing that causes them to cut tape for "SportsCenter" or has a storied basketball program such as Gonzaga talking about rewriting its media guide.

Start the presses, roll the video. The Zags are headed to the Sweet 16 thanks to Goodson's unexpected heroics in the waning seconds of an 83-81 victory over Western Kentucky in the NCAA South Regional second round.

Coach Mark Few and teammates would have you believe Goodson's floating, 6-foot bank shot with just under a second remaining was just the look they wanted to hold off the lightning late charge of the Hilltoppers. It would be a laughable notion if not for the end result.

With 7.9 seconds left and the score tied at 81, Goodson dribbled down court and saw the defense sag. Everyone expected him to pass, probably to Jeremy Pargo. Instead he leaped and went glass, burying the basketball and WKU with one flick of the wrist.

"I just looked up on the clock and saw 7 seconds left," Goodson said. "Pargo was calling for it, but I just kept going down and saw the lane, drove, took the shot and made it. It just feels good."

A wild celebration ensued, Gonzaga players bouncing and embracing at midcourt. Often stoic Few was positively beaming as he bear hugged Goodson and Pargo. The large contingent of Zags fans in the stands went bonkers.

In the afterglow, Goodson acted as if he had performed such feats often, before admitting that the last time he made such a clutch shot was in fifth grade. Still, he didn't hesitate.

"I drove left and there were two guys and one of the bigs went with Matt [Bouldin]," Goodson said. "So it opened up the lane and I took it. I was really surprised to get that look."

He might have been surprised to have been in the game, brought in 23 seconds earlier as a defensive replacement in hopes of slowing Western Kentucky point guard Orlando Mendez-Valdez. Mendez-Valdez had torched Gonzaga for seven 3-pointers and 25 points.

Turned out to be a great decision by Few.

"We debated as a staff whether to have Josh [Heytvelt] in there for the rebound or to have Meech because he was doing the best job on Mendez-Valdez," Few said. " … He is probably our best finisher around the rim as a guard. This kid has a knack for making shots over bigger guys. From Day 1 in our program that is something we noticed."

A nation knows now.

Without Goodson we might have instead been talking about Mendez-Valdez and the Hilltoppers' comeback.

Down nine points with 2:14 left, WKU came charging. A.J. Slaughter drilled a 16-foot jumper, collected a steal and fed Mendez-Valdez for a 3-pointer that made it 81-77. Another Gonzaga turnover resulted in a Steffphon Pettigrew slam. Pettigrew's tip-in with just under 8 seconds left tied it up.

Then Goodson went to the bank.

Seeing their rally slip away in such fashion was devastating, Mendez-Valdez said.

"Just for the fact that it came down to one possession," he said. "If we were down by 10 or 12 it wouldn't be as bad. But in the heat of the moment, it got really emotional."

The emotion was the opposite for Gonzaga, a veteran team that was knocked out in the first round of the tournament the past two seasons by Davidson and Indiana. It last reached the Sweet 16 in 2006.

To get any deeper, they'll have to get past top-seeded North Carolina in Memphis next week.

Pargo, a senior, knows it's his last shot to equal the best finish ever for the Zags, an Elite Eight in 1999. Gonzaga wouldn't be in the position to pull it off without the contributions of underclassmen, such as Austin Daye, and on this night, Goodson.

"You can see it in their eyes how much they want to win and advance and get the program an opportunity to do something it's never done before," Pargo said. "It's a tremendous thing to see in everyone's eyes. And it's just an accomplishment for us to do this, especially the way we won the game."

No kidding.

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