Sunday, March 23, 1997
Listerman knows
people will remember
his miss

The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOUISVILLE - Andy Listerman answered all the questions. He recounted the last play repeatedly, first from a seat on an elevated platform and then with the television cameras right there in his face.

He thought he had been fouled on his final shot, the one that did not fall, the one that could have brought a national championship to Northern Kentucky University, but he said so with resignation rather than rage. In the anguished aftermath of Saturday's NCAA Division II Championship game, Andy Listerman put a full-court press on his pain.

He managed a smile. He made a joke. And then, maybe 40 minutes after Cal State-Bakersfield's 57-56 victory over NKU, Andy Listerman walked slowly back toward his dressing room. He walked down a long corridor at Commonwealth Convention Center, all by himself, and then he burst into tears upon finding his father at the other end.

''It will never get put behind me,'' he said. ''It's going to burn tomorrow, and for a very long time. The sun's going to come up tomorrow, and I've got to go on with it. I've got to work harder for next year. I'll tell my teammates, my family and my girlfriend that I love them. I hope they still think of me the way they did before I missed that shot.''

It is often this way in close games of consequence. Fate leaves one unfortunate guy feeling as though he has botched his big chance, as if he has been permanently scarred by the capricious bounce of a ball. The comforting truth is that these feelings pass in time. Today's torment is tomorrow's twinge.

''Andy feels terrible right now,'' NKU coach Ken Shields said. ''But like I say to them all the time, sometimes God's greatest gifts are his refusals.''

What made Saturday's refusal so hard to bear was that the Norse had refused to give up in the face of frightful odds. Six minutes into Saturday's title game, they trailed Bakersfield, 16-2, and appeared astonishingly overmatched.

That it was a one-point game at the end made for higher ratings and harder feelings.

''Driving over here I was thinking, 'What if it came down to a last-second shot and I hit it?''' said NKU point guard Shannon Minor. ''It was kind of funny. Coming down to the last 30 seconds, I had the ball at the top of the key and we're down and I'm dribbling and I'm thinking, 'Just make that shot.'''

With his team trailing by one point, Minor launched an open three-point try from the left wing with four seconds to play. A little too strong, it clanged off the far edge of the rim and into the clutches of Cal State's Kebu Stewart.

Strangely, Shannon Minor was smiling.

''I was just thinking to myself, 'Hey, we're playing on national TV and I just missed a big shot,''' he said. ''I was smiling to myself because I had made that shot a million times. Why did I pick now to miss?''

Minor's miss should have ended the suspense, but the Norse would get two more reprieves before the game ended. First, Stewart missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity. Then, after NKU called a timeout, Todd Clark's length-of-the-court baseball pass deflected off a Bakersfield hand out of bounds.

This gave NKU the ball beneath its own basket with 2.5 seconds left to play. Kevin Listerman would make the inbounds pass. His brother's assignment was to set a screen for Cliff Clinton and to be available if no one else could get open.

''I think I was the last option,'' Andy Listerman said. ''As soon as I set the screen and turned to Kevin, I was open immediately. I think Kevin was looking a little more for one of the other options. I kind of pulled my hands back and then he realized I was open.

''The ball kind of rolled around in my hands and I knew I had to make a shot. I didn't have enough time for a pump fake or anything, so I kind of threw it up as quickly as I could. It was practically a bunny (a layup), but it didn't drop. Maybe I rushed it a little bit, but I felt I got hit on the arm.''

When the buzzer went off with no whistle, Listerman walked toward the officials, pleading for a foul. Then he dropped to the floor, face down, and held his head in his hands as the photographers clustered around him for the single shot that said everything.

''You're thinking about being the hero, and you end up a zero,'' Andy Listerman said. ''A lot of people are going to know me for missing that shot. ... If you hit it, heck, 35 million people would remember you making the shot. I didn't hit it, so I'm going to have to deal with people maybe calling me a choker or something.''

If anyone were so thoughtlessly inclined, it would be both unkind and unfair. A year ago, Listerman made a last-second shot to beat Cal State Bakersfield in the Division II Tournament. Saturday's miss was simply the other side of that coin.

''It's a huge disappointment,'' Andy Listerman said. ''If I ever watch the video, I'll think, 'Does this end any different than reality?'''