On Friday night, in the semifinal round of the Class 2A Sectional basketball tournament at Southwestern, Switzerland County fans went from the pain of defeat to the thrill of victory in the blink of an eye.
Actually, in about 16 seconds.
Switzerland County and North Decatur had battled back and forth for 32 minutes, and after the game was tied at 51-51 in regulation, it was going to take four more minutes to decide the winner.
With 46-seconds to go, North Decatur’s Garrett Wood made two freethrows that pushed the Chargers in front 58-54, and seemed to seal the win; but Switzerland County responded with a three-pointer by senior Kyle Whitham with 33-seconds left; and the Pacers scrambled to foul a Charger player to stop the clock.
Wood was the target again, and this time — with North Decatur in the double bonus, meaning that any Pacer foul resulted in two freethrows — the Charger guard felt the pressure, missing both attempts and giving Switzerland County life.
Again the Pacers went to Whitham, who powered his way to the basket for a bucket, and with 16-seconds left, Switzerland County found itself ahead by a 59-58 count.
North Decatur came down on offense, looking for a shot against a smothering Switzerland County defense. The ball went inside to Charger center Tyler Walterman, but he missed his shot attempt.
The junior went to the line for two attempts with just 2.2-seconds left, and the entire gym holding their breath.
The first attempt was good, tying the game at 59-59.
The tension mounted as the second attempt sailed towards the goal.
North Decatur was in front 60-59, Charger fans were celebrating and cheering; and teams from Southwestern and South Decatur were just off of the court waiting to warm up for the second semifinal.
And that’s when it happened.
Whitham stepped out of bounds and tossed the ball to fellow senior Austin South. South has been the leader of the team on and off of the court all season long, and catching the ball on the right side of the court on North Decatur’s end, just past the Charger freethrow line; South realized that the referees were not going to give him a timeout, so he turned and heaved the ball 3/4-court towards the Switzerland County goal.
Nothing but net.
The ball passed through the rim just as the horn sounded and the lights around the backboard came on.
Three-pointer good. Pacers win, 62-60.
For a split second there was a moment of calm, perhaps disbelief at what the packed gym had just seen — then pandemonium struck, as players and fans rushed the court. Other stayed in their seats in shocked awe. Charger players fell to their knees. North Decatur fans had their hearts ripped out.
Pacer coach Adam Dennis stood staring at the goal, hands on his head; while teammates mobbed South just in front of what seconds before had been the North Decatur bench.
To put the shot into perspective, South was so far away, had he turned and shot the ball at the North Decatur goal, it would have only been worth two points, because he was inside of the Charger three-point line.
The Internet was flooded with a variety of video angles of the shot, but the one coming from the North Decatur baseline, behind South as he let it go, doesn’t show a desperation heave as much as it shows an online, long range shot. South’s body language shows that he knew it had a chance from the moment it left his hands, and as it went through, he fell to the floor right at the feet of Charger coach Kyle Nobbe.
The shot went viral as people all over the country clicked on Instagram or Facebook or some other social media platform to see the moment. On one site, the video of the shot had experienced nearly 1.1 million views as of this past Tuesday afternoon.
Is it the greatest shot in Switzerland County history? The case can certainly be made for that, as it came in the Sectional tournament; but one thing’s for sure, those 2.2 seconds will be talked about in Switzerland County for decades to come.