With 12 seconds on the clock, Seton-LaSalle's Levi Masua rebounded a missed free throw from Constitution High School's Kimar Williams on the left block. Masua passed it to teammate Dale Clancy, who dribbled up court with the Rebels trailing, 61-59, in the PIAA Class AA championship game on March 22.
Clancy reached the top of the key and tossed a pass to Masua, streaking on the right wing. Masua was open for a 3-pointer with the clock winding down. He rose up for a shot to give Seton-LaSalle its first PIAA boys basketball title since 1988.
The ball came off Masua's hand perfectly, the rotation was there and the arc was on point. It just caught the back of the rim and the rebound fell to Williams, who dribbled the remaining seconds off the clock.
Constitution celebrated. Masua threw his mouthpiece in frustration.
"I was in shock," he said. The shot had felt so good.
Seton-LaSalle finished the season at 29-2, winning the WPIAL title and narrowly missing a PIAA championship. Things had gone so well all season long for the Rebels, which was partly why it was so shocking that Masua's shot rimmed out. It would have been a storybook ending, Clancy to Masua for the buzzer-beating victory, a one-two punch Seton-LaSalle saw a lot of last season.
And now the two will have a chance to continue that one-two punch at the college level. Clancy and Masua will both be freshmen at Pitt-Johnstown this fall and look forward to another four years together, both on and off the court.
"When you talk about the quality of kid, I don't know that you're going to find two better kids," Seton-LaSalle coach Mark "Knobby" Walsh said. "To see them go to the next level and not have to pay for college is a dream come true for them, but a dream come true for us coaches. We feel like we were a small part of that."
Clancy, a 5-foot-8 point guard from Penn Hills, met Masua, a 6-foot-5 forward from Castle Shannon -- though originally born in Sudan -- at lunch one of the first days of their freshman year of high school. It wasn't until late in his senior year, after basketball season was over, that Masua knew he would attend Pitt-Johnstown with Clancy.
Pitt-Johnstown coach Bob Rukavina showed interest in Clancy and Masua long before their senior year. Walsh said Rukavina attended more Seton-LaSalle games than any other college coach. When the Air Force Academy expressed interest in Masua late in the spring, Masua thought he might have a chance to play Division I.
But too many obstacles came with enrolling in a service academy so late in the game. Masua chose to play for Pitt-Johnstown and now he and Clancy will be roommates in the fall.
"It's been a blessing to play with somebody that I'm really good friends with off the court," Masua said. "We're really close, that's what made us successful playing together."
Walsh took over as the coach at Seton-LaSalle prior to Clancy and Masua's sophomore season. He remembers the first time he saw them play that summer. Clancy was exceptionally quick and Masua was already tall and athletic.
"We were hard on them," Walsh said. "We said, 'This is how we're going to do things.' They bought into that, and put the team first. That's the best way to describe them: They put the team before themselves."
Walsh said the two spent hundreds of hours over three years working in the gym. By the time Clancy, Masua and the rest of the players in their class were seniors, he rarely heard them say the word "I" during timeouts, which is partly why the Rebels had such a good season.
Not many people gave Seton-LaSalle a chance against Constitution, a team with seven players going on to play college ball. The Rebels were down nine with three minutes remaining, and still they battled back and came within inches of a state championship.
Masua remembers how encouraging it was to hear his teammates say afterward that they wouldn't have wanted anyone else taking the last shot.
"We lost but everybody was happy," Masua said. "That made missing the shot easier for me."
Masua will have plenty more shots to come, and Clancy will be there to dish him the ball and hit a few shots of his own.
"How many times do you get to play eight years with the same guy," Walsh said. "Our program, our staff, we are going to miss them."
Sean Hammond: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1466 and Twitter @sean_hammond.