March Madness began in earnest over the weekend, as Radford hit a last-second shot to become one of the first teams to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament. However, the craziest title-winning shot came a day earlier — and the Hail Mary was tossed, appropriately enough, by a quarterback.
A high school quarterback, to be precise, for the Ardsley (N.Y.) Panthers. It is no slight to Radford’s Carlik Jones to say his late-game heroics had nothing on the insanity provided by Julian McGarvey.
Things looked bleak Saturday for Ardsley in New York’s Section 1 class A final, as Tappan Zee had a two-point lead and possession with less than four seconds left. Although it was inbounding the ball under its own basket, Tappan Zee made what is usually the smart play by throwing it well across midcourt to a player sprinting toward his basket.
McGarvey also played safety during football season, and he played excellent pass defense in making the interception, but he stumbled while changing direction and could only muster an off-balance, desperation heave from inside Tappan Zee’s three-point line. The ball went in just after the buzzer, giving Ardsley an extremely unlikely, 52-51 victory and setting off pandemonium at Pace University’s Goldstein Center.
“I’d say the quarterback arm helped a bit,” said McGarvey (via lohud.com), who earned tournament MVP honors. “Throw it up high and let your receiver catch up to it. This time I hit the spot — right in the bottom of the net.”
A senior who is committed to play football at Marist, McGarvey not only became an instant hero and viral sensation, but he atoned for what had appeared to be a costly mistake moments before, when he missed a crucial free throw. He said he was “about to start bawling on the court” because of the miss, but instead he gave Ardsley its first section title since 1958.
Interviewed on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” McGarvey said that when he released his shot, he thought it “looked good” but was likely to come up just short. He also referred to his school’s 60-year wait for a championship: “It’s been a long drought here at Ardsley, and to finally hang that banner and bring back a gold ball, it means a lot. I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid, since I started playing basketball.”
If that was the shot of the day Saturday, Jones owned Sunday. A redshirt freshman guard for the Highlanders, Jones was charged with holding the ball as the seconds ticked down in a tie game with Liberty, waiting to make the right play, be it a pass or shot.
Jones opted to take the shot, raising up from behind the arc and hitting a game-winner with no time left to lead his squad to the Big South conference tournament title. As with McGarvey, Jones was quickly swarmed by jubilant teammates.
“I’m just thankful the shot fell,” said Jones (via roanoke.com), who was named the tournament’s MVP. “I looked at it after a while and I was like, ‘That’s good.’ To be able to knock down that shot and now we’re able to go to the NCAA tournament, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
Radford is headed to the Big Dance for the first time since 2009 and just the second time in program history. That’s not quite the same kind of drought that Ardsley had experienced, and Jones’s shot wasn’t quite as miraculous as McGarvey’s, but the guess here is that no one at either school is quibbling over details right now.
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