Ross Dember and Alex Schroeder | Five-feet Nothing
The ball is tipped
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 01:10
This week is Ross’, so let’s start things off by talking about the greatest montage in sports. At the end of every NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game, CBS shows the highlights of that year’s tournament while Luther Vandross, or in one unfortunate year Jennifer Hudson, belts out the lyrics to “One Shining Moment.” The song and montage highlight the beauty of the tournament. While there are future NBA stars in the tournament, for one game, half or shot, some overlooked or less talented player can be the hero for his team.
When I was in the seventh grade, I would end every basketball practice the same way. I would stand on the wing and drain a game-winning three while Gus Johnson screamed, “Dember for the win!” in my head. It did not matter how many attempts it took, my last shot of the day was always a game-winning three to beat Duke for the national championship.
While I knew that my basketball career was coming to an end in about a year, the local rec league season made that reality less poignant. I was good enough to play the meaningful minutes at the end of the game, but not enough that the team needed to rely on me during crunch time. Luckily, we had Chet on our team. Chet was one of those rare eighth graders who was not only the tallest kid on the court, but also the fastest, strongest, most athletic and best pure basketball player. We cruised through that season as the best team in the league all the way to the championship game.
Unfortunately for us, our opponent had three relatively tall players, which made them the only team in the league that only needed to double-team, instead of triple-team, Chet. With a couple minutes left in the game, we were down 50-something to 40-something with Chet scoring 40-something while the rest of us were probably a combined 0-20 from the field.
On the next possession we had, down by eight points with little time to go, our point guard threw the ball into Chet in the post. Finding himself triple-teamed, he passed the ball out to me in the corner, where I drained the 3-pointer. After a quick foul, we found ourselves down by seven. This time we swung the ball around the perimeter, and as soon as I got it, I faked a pass to Chet, then sunk my second 3-pointer in a row. By the next possession, my confidence was at Brad-Pitt-in-“Fight Club” level. As soon as the ball hit my hands I put it up and held the follow-through. In one minute I had scored nine points and brought our team back from what looked like a sure defeat.
With 30 seconds left our assistant coach got called for a technical foul for making disparaging comments about our point guard (also his son) for what has to be one of the worst fouls of all time. By the time we got that ball back, we were down by three points with only eight seconds left. We knew that if we tied the game we would win in overtime; our opponent’s best players were all in foul trouble or exhausted from having to guard Chet.
Despite hitting three 3-pointers in a row, I was still hesitant to take the game-saving shot. The play unfolded chaotically; the pass directed at me was deflected, and I had to track it down ten feet behind the three-point line. With seconds remaining I took a dribble and hoisted the ball in the air. It was the shot I had practiced after every practice. The ball hit the rim, bounced off the backboard and kissed the rim before deciding to fall on the outside of the cylinder.
My one shining moment was over, one shot too soon.