With 4.3 seconds to go and Missouri up by one, UCLA called for their final timeout. It was the second round of the 1995 NCAA basketball tournament. UCLA was the #1 seed and the overall favorite to win the tournament, while Mizzou was the eighth seed and a huge underdog. It was a back and forth game from the beginning, with a lead by either team not more than five points. But with 4.3 seconds to go and my team up by one, UCLA had to go the full length of the court to win the game.
I was so nervous. I don’t think I left the couch the entire game. But I was also very excited because there was a good chance Mizzou was going to advance to the Sweet 16. I knew it would be very tough to go the full length of the court in under five seconds while getting off a decent shot.
As the timeout ended and the ten players dispersed onto the court, UCLA set up for their final play. I thought to myself, “This is it. Don’t get scared now.” As the ref handed the inbounder the ball, Tyus Edney, UCLA’s point guard, did a quick V-cut by his defender to get open. He received the pass and started dribbling down the full length of the court, around the Missouri Tiger’s defense. He passed half court with two seconds to go. As he neared the basket with only a few tenths on the clock, 6’1“ Mizzou player Derek Grimm stood between him and the basket. Edney knew he had to get that shot off to have a chance to win the game. With Grimm in the way and Edney ten feet to the right of the basket, he threw up an off balance fade-away shot over the outstretched Grimm.
As I watched the final play unfold, it felt like an eternity. But all it took was exactly 4.3 seconds for the ball to go through the basket and UCLA to win the game. Game over. I was so disappointed. It looked like an impossible shot. Miraculously, it went in. Mizzou was eliminated from the tournament, and UCLA went on to win the National Championship.
And it’s that time of year again – March Madness – when the best 68 Division I college basketball teams compete to be crowned National Champions. In my opinion, it’s one of the best sporting events of the year. By the time this blog gets posted, opening weekend will be finished, buzzer beaters and upsets will have occurred, and there will be only sixteen teams remaining.
I can’t say I have ever made a game winning shot in my lifetime or ever been on a team when the final shot determined the game. However, I did coach a girls’ Middle School basketball team that scored a basket with no time remaining to send the game into overtime. That was pretty exciting. I actually did a blog on that game a few years ago. But buzzer beaters are hard to come by, let alone ever getting a chance to win the game on a last shot.
I’ve been locked up for five years now. I’m looking for that last second, buzzer beater miracle to allow me to be set free. I eagerly wait for my release paperwork to be approved at the last minute. Time is ticking away. God’s timing is perfect. He is never late, hardly ever early, but always right on time. He is definitely teaching my family and me patience through all of this. As a basketball player waits for the perfect time and an opening to take that last second shot, God is waiting for that perfect opportunity, that last second buzzer beater, to free me. Please pray for me as I wait.