There have been plenty of heart-warming stories to come out of high school sports in the calendar year. Players hit unexpected game winners, athletes with cancer recovered to return to the field, others helped their fellow teens in need. Few, if any, are more heart warming than the video you see below and the backstory that accompanies it.
As documented in detail by The Oregonian and Oregon Live, the bucket you see above --between Falls City (Ore.) High star Ethan McConnell and Mapleton (Ore.) High’s Davan Overton -- is far more than a simple meaningless buzzer beater, two points on the end of a one-sided walloping. It’s an act of pure selflessness, a talented teenager helping a less fortunate compatriot to hit a shot that everyone desperately wanted him to hit. There was no premeditation behind the pass. It wasn’t asked for by the recipient’s coach or suggested by the giver’s coach.
Rather, the pass was a pure act of genuine spontaneous goodwill, and it has since made both teens happier simply for having happened.
Unlike his teammates, Overton is not a fully able-bodied athlete. He suffers from an extremely rare condition called Dandy-Walker Syndrome, with a benign but irremovable cyst on his spine that slows his development and forces him to struggle just to keep his head straight. It also leads to a rather significant chance of death with each and every time his head makes contact with any other object. Essentially, relatively simple bumps that might only give another teen a headache can kill Overton.
As a result, Overton has never been able to play football, but he has played basketball since he was in middle school. In tiny Mapleton, the school system has accommodated his position while attempting to protect him, keeping him out of games until the later stages of contests that are already decided, when it is safe for him to enter and chuck up a few shots.
With his form (a byproduct of his lack of motor skills from Dandy-Walker), Overton struggles to connect on any of his attempts. The crowd always rallies around him to hit a shot, but he rarely has. That was precisely the case when Mapleton faced Falls City, too, with Falls City running down a decisive victory while Mapleton worked to get Overton as many shots as possible in the final three minutes.
With roughly 15 seconds left it appeared that Overton would finish outside the box score again. He missed what seemed sure to be his final attempt, then turned to run up court and play defense. Instead, McConnell -- who had already scored a game-high 22 points for Falls City -- grabbed the rebound and called out “Davan.” Overton turned, received a clean pass to him from an opponent and launched one last three-point attempt just before the buzzer sounded.
The shot went through, the crowd exploded, and the two teenagers involved in “the pass” stopped to think for the first time about what had just happened.
"I looked at one of the refs, and he gave me a thumbs up. I think he knew it was close to the buzzer, maybe even after the buzzer if you want to be honest about it," Falls City coach Sean Burgett told the Oregonian. "Nobody cared. It didn't matter.
"I told Ethan right after the game, 'Get ready for Good Morning America to call.'"
Good Morning America never called, but maybe they should have. Overton’s coach certainly agreed that McConnell’s gesture and the moment he shared with Overton was worth that amount of attention.
"Our attitude is that everybody who wants to play a sport should get that chance," Mapleton basketball coach Adam Decker told The Oregonian. "It's not like a bigger school where they have tryouts, and only the best athletes play, and winning is the thing you care about most.
“When someone puts others above themselves, that's a very, very special thing. In sports, you lose that sometimes. I'm watching the NFL on TV, and I see someone gets a sack, and they're just dancing in front of the TV. It's all, 'Me, me, me, look at me.' This wasn't about me, me, me."