January 26, 2010
The prank was set up perfectly. A high school girls' basketball coach in Kansas was told he'd win tickets to the Final Four if he hit a half-court shot while blindfolded. The crowd was instructed to scream wildly when his attempt inevitably failed (because, really, that shot is nearly impossible) so the coach would think the shot went in. For an instant ,he'd think he was Final-Four-bound and then the joke would be revealed. There was just one problem, though: He made it.
The students at Olathe High School in Kansas may have picked the wrong foil for the joke. Joel Branstrom, the popular girls' basketball coach at the school, was a walk-on for the University of Kansas basketball team in 1997. Clearly he had the basketball chops to make such a prank risky, at best.
That Kansas team, by the way, was ranked No. 1 headed into the NCAA tournament but lost one game short of the Final Four. Branstrom was hoping he'd finally get to go this year. Instead he received a gift certificate from a Mexican restaurant from students who felt guilty about setting up the prank.
To his credit, Branstrom took the joke in stride. He said he thought something was in the works (initially he feared he was going to get hit with a pie) and figured the crowd would cheer after any shot he attempted. He didn't believe that it actually went in until a good bit after.
One student told USA Today that since this story has gained national attention there have been offers pouring in from people willing to donate Final Four tickets to Branstrom. Maybe his miracle shot won't be unrewarded after all.
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