I woke up at 6:30 on Saturday morning, rolled over and grabbed my phone, and, for about the fiftieth time in the last eight hours, watched this video:
What you see there is a view from inside our gaming facility of the last few seconds of our game on Friday night against Magic Gaming. After being down 4 points with a minute left, we fought our way back and stole a win at the buzzer.
I kept rewatching that video because it was one of those moments that we will remember forever. We worked and worked and worked and, in a must-win situation, put ourselves in position to get that W. We were down 4 points with 1:11 left, down 3 with 34 seconds left, then down 1 with 19 ticks remaining. Which is when Follow somehow got a steal from the Magic, and we called our last time out to set up our final play.
We decided to try a pick and roll, hoping to generate a switch by the defense. (Usually teams don’t switch on a simple pick and roll, but in late-game scenarios teams are more likely to switch every action, just to avoid someone springing free unguarded.) The last piece of advice I gave Vandi was to remember that we didn’t want to take the last shot — we were behind and wanted to take the best shot possible; if we left time on the clock, our defense would have to win it for us.
We got the ball inbounds, Authentic came up and set a screen for Vandi, Vandi came off the pick and… to their credit, the Magic played it perfectly. Their center showed just long enough for their lock to get back over to Vandi, and they recovered quickly on the roll, effectively squashing our play.
So that was out the window. But we still had the ball, with 13 seconds left and the clock ticking. Authentic popped back out to screen for Vandi again, to maybe see if the play would work for a second time, and this time the Magic’s defender got caught on the screen, leaving Vandi guarded by the Magic’s center. Vandi saw the mismatch and backed the ball out. Vandi dribbled up near the top of the key, with about five seconds remaining, and as he did, a Magic defender pinched, or came over to help out, and momentarily double-teamed Vandi. This left our shooting guard, Chess, briefly open on the right wing, so Vandi kicked the ball over to him. A Magic defender noticed Chess open and rotated over to defend, and Chess kept the ball moving over to the corner, hitting Spartxn, our power forward, who was standing there wide open with two seconds left on the clock. Spartxn caught the pass and calmly drained the three to put us ahead by two, and give us a 75-73 win.
Those are the facts of the play, a pragmatic description of how things went down. What I love about watching the replay of that video in the room are those seconds of silence. Watching the video, you can hear the tension in the room building to that moment — Authentic nervously warning that there are just four second remaining, my voice counting down the ticking clock. When Chess catches the pass and quickly keeps the ball moving to the corner, you can hear the room go completely silent. That anticipation, that sharp intake of air where everyone is hanging in there to see how our future plays out? That’s the moment, right there. That’s when I felt all nervous and hopeful and anxious and pretty much every emotion you can think of, all rolled into one. That silence was us waiting to see what our future held.
At the same time, I was pretty confident. Yes, it was the first three pointer that Spartxn had attempted all night, which means he hadn’t had much chance to establish a rhythm or groove. But I’ve seen him make that shot literally hundreds of times during practices. I knew he could make it. And if you watch that video, you see my right arm shoot up into the air as the ball gets rotated over to Spartxn, almost like a referee signalling a three attempt is on the way.
As the ball swishes through, you can see Follow and Authentic basically attack Spartxn to celebrate. What you can’t see is me, wildly gesturing that 0.4 was left on the clock and the Magic called their last timeout. I didn’t think that would be enough time to get a shot up, but I wanted to be sure we were back and had the situation covered, just in case something happened.
But nothing happened. The Magic threw a harmless lob pass to nobody, and we inbounded the ball and let the clock expire to escape with that two-point win.
I also like the broadcast angle of the shot, where you can see Follow and AA disappear from in front of their cameras and reappear on Spartxn’s as the shot drops…
You can see the shot and the celebrations. But here’s what you didn’t see from last week: Scrimmages literally all day Monday and Tuesday; Scrimmages Wednesday morning; Film sessions on Wednesday afternoon; Two games on Wednesday night, where we won the first game going away, then let the second game slip away. Scrimmages all day Thursday. More scrims on Friday, then film sessions scouting the Magic. And then two more games to end the week, which ended with, well, if you read this far, you know how it ends.
A season is a narrative, an overarching storyline that will, eventually, tell a full story. But that arc is made up of a lot of small moments, both good and bad. We don’t know yet how this season will end. I do know that it’s rare to have moments where everything clicks and comes together and months of work pays off, and this time it happened in a forum where we were being filmed, and we get to have this clip forever, to hang on to that moment.
For now, if we’re being honest, I’m tired, y’all. We’ve been on this Grizz Gaming grind for months. And it gets tougher each week, as the competition rachets up and as the stakes get higher and higher. The good news is there’s no quit in us. We are going to fight and battle each and every day, whether it’s in practice or a game. We are built for this.
And we can cherish all these small moments, to help carry us along this path.