The game with Montverde Academy (Fla.)
was tied, 24 seconds remained and Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
senior Nigel Williams-Goss
held the ball at his chest while standing well beyond the top of the key.
He just stared and surveyed.
This wasn't any game. It was the premier matchup of the nation's premier event — the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. — and it pitted the country's top two teams in front of approximately 2,000 fans and a live national television audience.
The last time the teams met was for the National High School Invitational title last season, an 86-83 Findlay Prep overtime victory when Williams-Goss swished a last-second, go-ahead floater in the lane.
"We didn't know exactly what we were going to do in this situation," Findlay Prep first-year head coach Todd Simon said. "But we knew who was going to have the ball."
As the clock ticked below 10 seconds, the chiseled 6-foot-3, 185-pound point guard continued to hold the ball and study the court. Like a monk during prayer or a cat right before pouncing upon prey, he was oddly still and calm while all around him was frantic and energized. The crowd, the players, the reserves and coaches hopped around anxiously in anticipation of the moment.
At 9... 8... 7, the energy and noise reached a fever pitch, but Williams-Goss still held the ball.
"Just waited for the right moment," he said.
At 6.5 seconds he attacked toward the basket, dribbling slightly right. He crossed-over once left and at 4 seconds he let fly a 3-pointer from just beyond the arc.
Montverde never got off a shot. Findlay Prep 62, Montverde Academy 59.
Williams-Goss turned and skipped down the court before being tackled and dog-piled on by his teammates. He had scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Pilots (24-0) come back from an 11-point deficit after three quarters.
"I'd been getting into the lane pretty easy so when they packed it in, I had confidence in my jumper," he said. "I just pulled up and knocked it down."
The bucket and the performance not only solidified the Washington-bound standout as a leading contender for the National Player of the Year award, but also as Findlay Prep's most accomplished player in a short but remarkably successful history.
Considering four former Pilots are in the NBA — Corey Joseph (Spurs), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), DeAndre Liggins (Thunder) and Avery Bradley (Celtics) — and they've boasted six McDonald's All-Americans in five years, that's a mouthful.
But, considering Williams-Goss is the program's first four-year letterman, a 4.0 student who was accepted into Harvard before signing with Washington, and has led the Pilots to a 113-7 record (81-5 as a starter) during his time, there's no debate that he is the poster boy for Findlay Prep.
He's helped legitimize a demanding but rounded program seen once strictly as cold basketball factory.
"The young man is special," Simon said. "If people hadn't figured it out before (the Montverde win) they certainly have now. Beyond all the points, game-winning shots, rebounds, assists and defense, he does so many little things for our program that people can't know about.
"That said, that was a special performance and a special finish."
What made it so out of the ordinary was with the poise and confidence he carried it out — as if it was somehow his fate and Findlay's Prep's destiny.
"It all just comes from the hard work," Williams-Goss said of his confidence. "The countless hours in the gym. The extra stuff. Staying after practice. As hard as I work I expect to make plays and shots like that."
The final sequence also mirrored Williams-Goss' young life and journey from Portland, Ore., to Henderson, located just outside Las Vegas.
He recognized a gift early. He knew what he wanted. He calmly and thoroughly studied his options and made — along with a devoted and loving family — a huge and some would say stressful decision.
By all counts, it's been nothing but net — a monumental net gain.
"I can honestly say the move to Findlay Prep was the best decision I've made in my life," he said. "But it's also been a very long journey."