Horizon senior Darren Carrington holds up four fingers after the Panthers clinched the fourth state basketball title in school history.
SACRAMENTO — With just four seconds remaining in the State Division V boys basketball championship game, one coach felt pretty good about his chances. His team had a two-point lead and was shooting two free throws.
The other coach, Horizon Christian Academy’s Tyrone Hopkins, still had hope. After all, the Panthers had pulled out five games this season in the waning seconds.
So why should the state finals be any different?
Horizon sophomore Ethan Underwood, whose senior brother Cody leads the team in scoring, took a pass from Darren Carrington Jr. after Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame missed both free throws and buried a 3-point shot from well beyond the NBA mark at the buzzer for a 47-46 victory Friday afternoon in Sleep Train Arena.
“I never thought the guy would miss both free throws,” said Ethan Underwood, who finished with 15 points. “Once Darren got the rebound and pushed it up the floor, he made the right decision.
“I crossed over and took the 3-pointer. The guy running at me was tall, so I never saw it after it left my hand. When I heard my teammates start screaming, I knew it went in.”
Cody Underwood, who averages 14.5 points a game but scored eight in the finals, was trailing the play and saw the whole thing unfold.
“That shot was just like in the backyard,” he said. “We were down seven (46-39) with (25.1 seconds left). How does something like that happen?
“There was definitely a moment there where I wondered what had really just happened. Did we really win on Ethan’s shot?”
The championship was the fourth for the Panthers (21-11) and their first since 2006.
Once Horizon lost the lead at 4-2, the Panthers trailed the Pilots (25-12) until two free throws by Carrington gave them a 31-30 lead.
St. Joseph Notre Dame, making its ninth appearance in the state finals, retook the lead seconds later on Justin Brown’s layup and held the upper hand long enough to think it was all over until Underwood’s heroics.
It was a bitter pill for the Pilots, who led by as much as 10 points (25-15) just before halftime.
“The players hurt because they care,” St. Joseph Notre Dame coach Don Lippi said. “That team was forced to take tough shots all day. We gave up 47 shots. It’s not like they blitzed us all day.
“A 30-foot throw wins the game. If he takes that shot 100 times, he misses at least 90 of them. That’s why they call this March Madness.
“I’ve never lost a game at the buzzer in 35 years of coaching outside of a summer league game once. I’ve been on the other end a few times.”
Horizon had a miserable shooting game, hitting 34 percent from the floor on a 16-for-47 effort, the same shooting performance as St. Joseph Notre Dame.
And Horizon was in mild foul trouble against the taller Pilots with senior Markel Byrd eventually fouling out and Carrington playing the final minutes with four fouls.
Horizon also failed to take advantage of being in the bonus situation nearly the entire fourth quarter.
“We were praying all day,” Hopkins said. “Thank goodness ice water runs through Ethan Underwood’s veins. He’s one of the guys who is never afraid to take a big shot.
“I’m not shocked it went in because we’ve done this so many times this season.
“I drew up the final play for Cody Underwood to get the shot. But I’m not taking credit because Jesus drew up the final shot.”
Temidayo Yussuf paced the Pilots with 20 points and 19 rebounds, a Division V state championship game record.
No other Pilots scored more than eight points.
Carrington led Horizon with 17 points and 14 rebounds, including the final one to set up Underwood’s shocker.
“I’ll never forget this place,” Ethan Underwood said.
Horizon will never forget Ethan Underwood’s Sacramento moment.