We're nowhere near the playoffs, so plenty of pressure-packed free-throw line appearances are sure to follow. Still, it's hard to imagine any bearing the sheer drama of the scenario Madison (Ky.) Central High forward Quan Taylor was facing on Saturday night.
As highlighted by the Lexington Herald-Leader and a handful of other Kentucky news sources, after his team had closed a four-point gap in the final 11 seconds of its game against nationally ranked Louisville (Ky.) Trinity High (No. 54 in the current RivalsHigh 100), Taylor found himself at the line facing two free throws to win the game. Because he was fouled under the most controversial of circumstances with no time left, he was sitting at the stripe by himself, with all of his teammates, opponents and some 3,600 fans waiting to explode if he hit a shot.
He missed the first, putting a major Kentucky upset on the line with a single free throw. After a deep breath, Taylor fired and drained it, sending the Montgomery County High School arena -- which was hosting the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic game -- into delirium celebrating an extremely unlikely 78-77 Madison Central win.
"I was so nervous," Taylor told the Herald-Leader's Mike Fields. "I've never had a game-winning shot before. I'm just glad the second one went in."
Of course, the call which put Taylor in position to provide that game-winner will continue to drive controversy for some time to come. Madison Central got the ball for an inbounds pass along the sideline with just one-tenth of a second remaining on the game clock. With no other options, Central guard Domonique Hawkins lofted a high inbounds pass toward the 6-foot-5 Taylor, hoping that he might be able to tip it in. After all, there wasn't time to do anything else.
Taylor couldn't get his hands to the ball, but he did draw a whistle, with referees calling Trinity forward Nathan Dieudonne for holding Taylor when he went up for the ball. The call left no time on the clock, setting the stage for Taylor's nervy heroics at the free-throw line.
You can see the entire episode unfold in the video above.
One can understand how referees might have interpreted the physical tussle for the ball as a foul, but to call it on anyone at that point in the game seems a bit harsh. After all, an inbounds pass is essentially a loose ball situation; it's not like Taylor was already in possession of the ball.
At least that's the way that Trinity coach Mike Szabo saw the scenario when asked about the foul afterwards.
"I don't know what those [referees] were thinking," Szabo told the Herald-Leader. "That's on them. That's just nuts to do that to kids who are trying so hard. That's just unfair."
Fair or not, it happened, and as one might expect, Madison Central was just as happy to defend the officials' decision as Szabo was to criticize it.
"It was a great call," Taylor said with a smile.