Science of a Buzzer-Beater


Senior Luke Paulson puts up a difficult layup in a revengeful win versus Cretin-Derham Hall. Photo courtesy of Dave Wildermuth.

Sam Lavely, Sports Editor

  We are all familiar with the accompanying tensions felt in the crowd as a team comes out of a timeout, ready to steal the game on a last second effort. However, few fans ever question the
components contributing to that shot. Wayzata boys basketball won their matchup on January 11th over Eden Prairie 64-63 after an off-balance, last second shot by senior guard Luke Paulson.
  The boys are no strangers to close games, finishing six of their fifteen games with a point differential of ten or less, but a last-second attempt is a completely different operation. Fellow senior guard Jacob Beeninga said that “there is a sense of urgency in the huddle.” Urgency is a key component to a game winner, as exemplified through the breakdown of the Trojans’ original play.
  “The play was originally meant to go to me to try and get a shot,” said Beeninga. Head Coach Bryan Schnettler said on the way in which he makes certain calls, saying “I have a list of plays that I go over before every game to make sure that we are prepared for each situation… the flow of the game has a big impact on who you want to take the shot.”
  A clutch shot can be drawn up in any ideal way, but often times the original plan falls apart. One may assume that this can have catastrophic effects, but Beeninga does not see it this way, claiming “it goes back to regular basketball in the sense that we need to try to create a shot.” “When I got the ball there were about five seconds left,” said Paulson. “I heard coach Schnettler yelling ‘rim’ so I took a few dribbles in the lane and pulled up.”
  Despite the game being so intense, Paulson said he was not all that nervous in the end. “I have gotten better at maintaining my head late in games as I have gained experience and gotten older… I was confident it was going in,” said Paulson.
  While the court can be a frantic place in the final seconds of a game, Schnettler said that on the bench, “you want to try and stay as calm as possible and instill confidence in your players during the timeout.” A common misconception is that there is a largely selfish component to clutch shots, that certain players will force shots as long as they get to shoot them. This has been backed by several examples at the professional level, as players such as Kobe Bryant and James Harden will shoot in triple coverage while another player is wide open. However, Beeninga claims that this is not the case at all. While the play against Eden Prairie was drawn for him to shoot, he explained “[he] was cut off and thought Luke would have a better chance at a good shot based on the situation.”
  Beeninga and Schnettler both said that the team has several players whom they trust with a last shot, leaving options open for the team. All of the factors contributing to a game-winning shot can be stressful, but it worked out for the Trojans in the end.