Seattle University was losing by 10 to Oregon State with time slipping away in their first-round NCAA Tournament game in Eugene, Ore., and hope was running out.
Forward John Tresvant was in foul trouble. Guard Charlie Williams was having an off night shooting. Guard Peller Phillips and center L.J. Wheeler had overslept and missed the team bus in Seattle, and were doing more sitting than playing. SU's basketball team needed a shot of adrenaline.
Phillips, seated at the far end of the bench, pulled off his sweats, walked by the coaches without saying a word and inserted himself into the game.
On March 10, 1964, the Chieftains trailed 55-45 with five minutes remaining. Whether it was the guard's brazenness or everybody just feeling a sense of urgency, SU pulled together, outscored the Beavers 16-2 down the stretch and rescued a thrilling 61-57 victory.
"I felt a responsibility to the team if we lost," Phillips said. "I felt a lot of guilt about that. That's why I ran into that game."
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 27th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Powerful Oregon State, 25-3 entering the game, had hurt the Chiefs with 7-footer Mel Counts, a big man who preferred to shoot from the perimeter. His top-of-the key jumper had been deadly, giving him most of his game-high 27 points.
SU's Ralph Heyward, Williams and Phillips got the comeback started by putting their quickness to good use, pressing the Beavers and forcing instant turnovers.
"We wore them down," Heyward said. "The big guys got tired."
With 3:25 remaining, OSU's Counts dunked for the 57-49 lead, marking the last time Oregon State scored. SU's Williams countered with two free throws. Counts missed a 1-and-1 free throw, and the Chiefs' Heyward responded with a pair of free throws and a fast-break layin to pull SU within 57-55. Williams hit a shot, was fouled, converted the three-point play and the Chiefs were ahead for good with 2:18 left.
The victory sent the Chiefs (22-6) into a second-round matchup with No. 1-ranked UCLA, a tough 95-90 loss, and a consolation game against Utah State, an 88-78 victory. Phillips thought about it, but didn't sneak into either one of those games. Once home, the guard was called in explain his actions to coach Bob Boyd and assistant coach Lionel Purcell.
"Boyd said, 'Purcell, did you put Peller in the Oregon State game?' " Phillips said. "Purcell wanted to say yes, because he liked me, but he dropped his head and said no. I told them, 'I just imagined I heard you guys call me and I just went running in. I didn't want to lose.' Boyd looked at me, laughed and said, 'Get out of here.' "
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