Coach Evan Cox says it felt as if time froze when Sturgeon Heights Huskies forward Riley Pierce launched the ball in the dying moments of overtime at the Manitoba AAAA Junior Varsity Basketball Championships on Tuesday night.
The score was tied 63-63 against the No.1 ranked Garden City Fighting Gophers.
"It felt like the ball sat on the rim for about five minutes and then went in. I think everybody in the gym lost their mind and erupted into screaming cheers and piling on each other for hugs," said Cox.
Video of the dramatic end to the game shows the jubilant player and fan reactions to the last-second win at the University of Manitoba.
Cox knew the game was going to be close. But he never thought it would end in overtime in such a dramatic fashion.
"My heart stopped a solid beat when the ball got knocked loose from my big guy and he had to dive on the floor to get it. That scared me for a bit, but then we got composed. Without me calling anything, the team ran a set that we worked on all year, and it kind of drew all the defence in. At first I thought the shot was not going in, as if it appeared to freeze on the rim," said Cox. "It was incredible."
The junior varsity team — Grade 10 students — won the first Winnipeg Conference Final, after Winnipeg One and Winnipeg West amalgamated into a super division this year, Cox said. Every game in the playoffs had been extremely close — within five points down to the last few minutes of the game — but this win was in the final second.
"I think there were 5,000 hugs given by everyone to everyone in the crowd. We will be holding a meeting to find out what the team celebration will be," said Cox.
Cox has been coaching junior varsity for years, but he doubts he will ever see such a dramatic win again.
"Whatever the rest of my coaching career brings, and whatever is going to follow, I know I will not have … such a dramatic end. It was awesome. The fans were electric."