When Jack Lavery hit a half-court shot at the buzzer during a halftime contest on Saturday night at West Chester University, the 18-year-old freshman celebrated by racing around the gym, high-fiving fellow students and bear-hugging his dad in the stands.
Little did Lavery know at the time that he wouldn't be collecting any of the $10,000 prize money.
Although Lavery sank a layup, free throw, 3-pointer and half-court shot in the 25 seconds allotted to him, his one-handed fallaway shot from mid-court came after he secured the rebound of his initial miss from that distance. School officials approached Lavery in the midst of his celebration and informed him that contest rules dictated he had as many tries as required at the layup, free throw and 3-pointer but he needed to have sunk the first attempt at the half-court shot to have won.
"It was really disappointing," Lavery's father, Bill Lavery, said Monday morning. "They led us to believe that he won because the emcee narrating the whole thing encouraged Jack to take the second shot and left the clock running. That's where we're kind of miffed. If they had known the rules, they should have just ended it right after he missed the first shot. They shouldn't have kept running the clock, played the buzzer and got the crowd into it. Once that happened, we're believing and he's believing he won $10,000."
The Lavery family would have a stronger argument had Jack Lavery not signed a contract that spells out the rules clearly before participating in the contest. West Chester athletic director Edward Matejkovic provided Yahoo Sports with a copy of the contract, which states that participants "have as many opportunities as necessary at each of the first three locations to make a shot" but "no more than one attempt" at the half-court shot.
Bill Lavery said his son didn't have time to read every detail of the contract since he was informed he had been chosen to participate from a random drawing about three minutes prior to halftime. Matejkovic sympathizes with the Lavery family but was adamant that the school has no intention of paying the prize money.
"He only gets one shot and he knew the rules going in," Matejkvovic said. "We bought an insurance policy, so our money is gone. It's not that we don't want the kid to win the money, but the rules are pretty clear and no insurance company is going to pay up on that.
"I feel bad for the kid if he thought he won but we told him right afterward that he only had one shot. It wasn't that he left there thinking he won. He was told it didn't count because he needed to make the first shot."
Bill Lavery is holding out hope the school will soften its stance or agree to a compromise because the money would mean a lot to his family. The Pennsylvania resident and his wife both work full-time in hopes of paying for college for both Jack and his 16-year-old sister.
"It would help, that's all I'm going to say," Lavery said. "We've struggled the last five years. My wife and I both work full time and we're struggling like everyone else to make ends meet. Financially it would be a huge help."