There are epic buzzer beaters, then there is the shot that Justin Hardy drilled on Friday night.
St. Charles East and St. Charles North were pitted in their annual rivalry toss-up. For two straight years, the two schools in a Chicago suburb about 40 minutes from downtown had their game come down to the last shot, so there was every reason to believe their 2018 encounter would follow suit. St. Charles East’s 53-50 victory against St. Charles North didn’t disappoint.
With East trailing 50-48, the Fighting Saints drew a foul with 3.3 seconds remaining. Both free throws fell through, giving North a chance to win if it could inbound the ball and get a shot off on the other end of the court in three seconds.
What happened next didn’t follow the traditional script:
East forward Justin Hardy somehow came up with a loose ball after it ricocheted off North’s Zach Ludwig and had just enough time to swivel, shoot and watch his miracle heave soar through.
Final score, 53-50, East. Here’s another look:
And once more:
That’s remarkable, and even Hardy himself had a hard time putting the moment into perspective, as he told the Kane City Chronicle.
“It was in my hands. I didn’t know the time on the clock. I just figured I had to turn and shoot,” Hardy told the Chronicle. “It’s a special feeling when you sell out a gym, and the game ends like that against your archrivals.”
Hardy led his team with 19 points, though it was his last second heroics that was most important to the star forward, particularly since it was the second year in a row he’d pulled off the trick.
“Two years ago here, JT Ford hit a buzzer-beater on our home court against North. Last year, I hit one to beat them,” Hardy said. “This year, same thing. History repeats itself, man. Coach [Pat] Woods said: ‘If the ball is loose, we steal it and the shot goes up. We’re gonna steal it and shoot it. Sure enough, that’s what happened.”