As the ball left Nick Dufault’s hands, Waseca coach Todd Dufault locked his eyes on the basket and pondered how he would comfort his losing team. “I was thinking, ‘What am I going to say?’ ” he recalled. “It was devastating.”
The coach assumed his nephew’s 80-foot heave would fall short, allowing Marshall to beat Waseca in three overtimes for the Section 2, Class 3A basketball championship. Instead, it dropped cleanly through the hoop with one second remaining — forcing a fourth overtime, and putting Waseca on course to claim a 103-100 victory in a game that captured national attention with three buzzer-beating shots.
Both Nick and Todd Dufault were still searching for words Friday to describe the game at Gustavus Adolphus College, which gave Waseca a berth in next week’s state tournament. Marshall sent it to overtime with a shot in the last second of regulation, and after Nick Dufault’s improbable lob, Waseca’s Cole Streich nailed a three-pointer in the final second of the fourth overtime for the victory.
Cellphone videos shot from the stands practically broke the Internet, earning the Bluejays Twitter shoutouts from Nigeria and Ghana and interview requests from ESPN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and NPR. Friday afternoon, Nick Dufault — still wearing his section champion’s medal — went into the Waseca High School gym to try to re-create the most incredible shot of an incredible game. He couldn’t even hit the rim, underscoring the once-in-a-lifetime nature of a moment that resonated with millions of sports fans.
“I knew it was going to be close, and I thought it had a chance,” said Dufault, a senior who scored a game-high 43 points. “But no way did I think it was going to go in. I mean, how do you make that?
“When that goes in, you’re just like, ‘This is meant to be.’ I still can’t believe it. It’s like I’m living a dream.”
Dufault and Streich didn’t spend more than 20 minutes in any class Friday. They got only a few hours of sleep before a morning chat with the hosts of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” then were repeatedly summoned to the office of athletic director Joe Hedervare to sit for interviews about their wild game.
Marshall and Waseca have a spirited yet friendly rivalry in the Big South Conference, and Waseca was eager to turn the tables Thursday after losing the conference championship to Marshall.
Waseca Principal Jeanette Swanson said more than 1,200 people traveled to St. Peter for the game, creating an “electric” atmosphere.
The Bluejays led 72-69 with 5 seconds remaining in regulation.
After Streich missed a free throw that could have sealed the game, Marshall’s Trey Lance put up a three-point shot that hit the back of the rim, then the front, then dropped through at the buzzer to tie the score.
Streich said he was “devastated,” but Todd Dufault liked how his team reacted. “Right away, they were saying, ‘Keep your head up, Cole. We got you,’ ”the coach said. “To me, that showed we were in this together. Our mind-set was, we have to turn the page and prove we deserved to win this game.”
Neither team could hold an advantage through the first two overtimes. With 1.7 seconds left in the third extra period, Marshall took a 94-91 lead, and Waseca put the ball in play to Nick Dufault for a final, desperate lob.
“I remember thinking it was neat that we got a shot off,” Todd Dufault said. “When it went in, I just stood there, trying to figure out what happened.”
It set off delirium in the stands. Hedervare was in the middle of the student section, his hands shaking as he texted his dad. Swanson said she clapped so hard that she broke blood vessels in her hands. A trombone player in the pep band put his horn down; within 10 seconds, he told Nick Dufault, it had been crushed in the pandemonium.
By the fourth overtime, people who had heard about the game via social media flocked to the already-overstuffed gym.
Nick Dufault helped calm his team after his 80-foot prayer, reminding them nothing had been won yet.
The game’s crazy karma put the ball in the hands of Streich — whose missed free throw set all the drama in motion — for the last shot.
He drained it, sealing a victory that kept coaches and players busy all night fielding congratulations from around the country.
Friday, Streich and Dufault sat next to Waseca’s section championship trophy, with the net draped over it, still disbelieving over their slice of March madness.
“When you’re playing the game, you’re like, ‘That can never happen,’ ” Nick Dufault said of his shot. “We’re just little Waseca.
“When my friends lifted me up afterward, and everyone was cheering, that’s the moment you work for your whole life. And to have it actually happen, I just feel so lucky and blessed.”