CHARLOTTE, N.C. >> First Joshua Linson knocked out the lights. Then he knocked out Winston-Salem State, ending a basketball game that took three days to complete.
The sophomore guard broke a 40-hour tie by hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24 seconds left Friday to lead Johnson C. Smith to an 89-86 overtime win against the Rams in a bizarre game.
The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association game was suspended Wednesday night when Linson’s full-court heave with 0.3 seconds remaining shattered two lights suspended from the ceiling about 20 feet above the court, leaving one dangling perilously from a wire.
The game, tied at 76, was suspended until Friday because of safety concerns.
“I caused all of this,” Linson said jokingly after Friday’s game.
Winston-Salem State had the option to decide the outcome by a coin flip, but instead elected to travel the 90 minutes back to Charlotte to play a five-minute overtime period, which lasted 14 minutes in real time.
Rams coach Bobby Collins said the game seemed to go by in an instant.
“We actually needed some fouls to slow the game down a little,” Collins said. “It was the strangest game ever. But it wouldn’t have been so strange if we had won.”
Johnson C. Smith did not charge admission for the rescheduled game and about 1,000 fans showed up Friday afternoon.
They were loud right from the pregame warm-ups, setting up an intense five minutes of play.
“It was really a great atmosphere for a five-minute ball game,” Johnson C. Smith coach Stephen Joyner said.
The Rams began preparing for the overtime about four hours before the game, when players gathered for breakfast in Winston-Salem, N.C. They traveled on small buses about 70 miles, hitting a rainstorm and traffic along the way.
They arrived in plenty of time and players spent more than an hour on the court stretching and warming up for the game.
Well, most of them.
Some, like Johnson C. Smith’s star player Emilio Parks, didn’t bother dressing for the game. He fouled on Wednesday night.
Both coaches said they prepared as if it were a full-length, 40-minute game.
Linson sure did.
With the game tied at 84, he got free on the left wing and launched a 26-footer from beyond the arc. It didn’t come close to hitting any of the low-lying ceiling lights.
But he said he wasn’t thinking about the broken light when he released the go-ahead shot. It was his only basket, adding to his 25 points on Wednesday night to finish with a career-high 28.
He said waiting to finish the game was the hardest part.
“It was tough,” Linson said. “We were all very antsy for the last two days.”
Joyner said it was fitting that Linson, who has struggled with his shot this season, hit the one that mattered.
Joyner, also the athletic director at Johnson C. Smith, said before the game it was the right call to reschedule the game to Friday. There are 32 lights — each weighing about 70 pounds — in Brayboy Gymnasium, which was built in 1961.
“They’re heavy,” Joyner said. “Had we played and that had fallen, it would have knocked somebody out, no doubt. But the safety feature installed in the light fixture worked, so it didn’t drop.”
The two broken lights were fixed on Thursday.