The Shot Heard Throughout California
By Andrew Smith
San Diego (3/22/2013) – Never count the Horizon Panthers boys basketball team out. I learned that very hard lesson through first-hand experience. As the editor of San Diego Coastal Sports, in it’s first year of publication, I was just meeting all of the Coastal League basketball coaches for the first time. I waited to see Horizon play in person until January’s big MLK Showcase at Hoover. It was DARREN CARRINGTON‘s first game with the hoops team, but once they fell down 19-3 to Hoover I admittedly told Union Tribune’s Steve Brand and San Diego Reader’s Anthony Gentile (both seated next to me) after they asked about the Panthers team this year because they had yet to see them, “You guys are not missing too much.”
I left the gym unamused, making my way home only to find out they stormed back to beat the #2 ranked team in San Diego. I even proclaimed via Twitter that no San Diego basketball team had a shot to win state so let’s start baseball season already.
They went on to not only win CIF. but they made it all the way to Sacramento in the California Division V Championship game against St. Joseph Notre Dame at Sleep Train Arena Friday afternoon.
Nothing was falling for them late. Maybe their legs were exhausted from the furious third quarter comeback they had just completed. They faced a 10-point deficit with 5:25 left out of the halftime break and fought all the way back to even lead at one point. That was the last time they would ever lead again in the game…until the final buzzer sounded and the young sophomore ETHAN UNDERWOOD had just nailed “The Shot Heard Throughout California.”
Down two points with 2:23 to play, the Panthers had six straight possessions with a rather easy drive to the rim, but were unable to convert in the paint. With forty-five seconds remaining and trailing by four head coach TYRONE HOPKINS was forced to play the foul game.
The first trip to the line saw the Pilots miss the front end of a one-and-one. MARKEL BYRD swooped the rebound, passed to CODY UNDERWOOD only to get it back, drive to the hoop – same result – just short. Pilots 6-foot-7 center Temidayo Yussuf calmly nailed both freebies to give them a 45-39 lead with 35 seconds remaining on the clock.
Cody Underwood then drove to the lane and kicked out to Carrington. Trailing by six he curiously drove into the lane – rather than take the 3-point attempt – and turned the ball over trying to make an extra pass. Forced to foul the Panthers were 25 seconds away from tears of disappointment as even the TV personalities claimed, “That’s gonna do it folks. St. Joseph Notre Dame is going to win their storied fifth state title.”
Hopkins was going out without a fight. He yelled to his players, “This isn’t over! Box out! One-and-one! Let’s Go!”
The Pilots went on to make the front end making it a 7-point lead with 25.1 seconds remaining when Carrington corralled the rebound of the second missed attempt. He immediately kicked it out to Byrd, who rushed down court and found Ethan Underwood for a 3-point field goal.
Down four with 11.3 seconds to play, Byrd picked up his fifth foul as he sent Yussuf back to the charity stripe…this time in the double bonus. He missed both and once Carrington grabbed the board it took him all but 6.1 seconds to go from coast-to-coast for the easy layup.
With four ticks of the clock left Horizon fouled Notre Dame’s best shooter, sophomore Marcus Harris, but et tu Brute – he went on to miss both – following in his teammates steps. The Pilots were 3-for-13 from the line in the final 90 seconds of play.
Of the Panthers’ two Underwood brothers Cody is much more of an outside threat than Ethan. Cody had made 49 three pointers on the season to Ethan’s 6, but you wouldn’t know that if you just watched the San Diego CIF title game and this match, which saw him combine to go 1-for-16 in the two tilts.
Carrington led the Panthers with 17 points, but his game-high 14th rebound set the stage for a miracle to the Horizon faithful…
Ethan received the pass from Carrington at mid-court, took 2 dribbles and lined up for a 30-footer from straight away and he NAILED it for his 15 point as their tears of failure turned into tears of joy.
At first everyone seemed paralyzed, almost undoubtedly unsure of what they had just saw. Underwood was one of them and it even took his entire team a good 3 or 4 seconds before they tackled him to the ground and dog-piled him at mid-court after winning 47-46.
“I wanted to get up the court quick because we only had four seconds left,” he diagrammed. I wanted to get to the middle because that’s my spot so with a quick little crossvover I got there. I knew it was going in as soon as it left my hands I knew it was good. I just want to thank God.”
As a non-believer of the Panthers at the beginning of the year ETHAN UNDERWOOD proved to me to never count them out with his final shot of his high school career alongside his brother. Combined the Underwood brothers have shown the stuff legends are made of and I will be attending their pep rally to shake each and every one of their hands.
Hopkins added, “It’s just such a blessing that we got it done.”