As each minute passed, the anxiousness and uncertainty mounted.
All Joe Tagarelli could do was pace back and forth.
He had just made the most improbable shot, catching a length-of-the-floor pass from teammate Evan McGaughey, dribbling one direction, spinning the other and hitting a leaning jumper all within 1.8 seconds. At the moment it went in, the game officials signaled it good to give the Quincy University men's basketball team a 76-75 victory over Rockhurst and maintain the hope the Hawks could win a Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division title.
Then came the video review and the excruciatingly long wait.
One, two, three minutes passed, and Tagarelli paced.
Four, five, six minutes passed, and he pulled his jersey over his face.
Seven, eight minutes passed, and finally a decision.
The field goal counted. The Hawks won. First place in the division was still theirs.
After all of that, making history seemed to be this team's fate.
The Hawks won two more regular season games following the remarkable finish against Rockhurst. It earned them their first GLVC division title since 2010 and set the stage for a return to the NCAA Tournament.
More importantly, it gave everyone a few more opportunities to watch the most entertaining brand of basketball around, making the Hawks' season my favorite story of the year.
The Hawks won 25 games last winter, tying for the second most in school history. They beat perennial power Kentucky Wesleyan in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. They went toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the nation because they had the ability to put the ball in the basket in bunches.
Quincy averaged 85.3 points per game with four starters averaging in double figures.
What made this group enjoyable went far beyond the numbers.
The Hawks were mature enough to never take themselves too seriously. Away from the court, they adopted the mantra "bowlers bowl" and turned trips to Casino Lanes into after-practice activities. They created the 200-pin club and found an old bowling pin which was kept in the locker room and signed by every member of the club.
They sought out Chick-fil-a on every road trip and joked about eventually starting a franchise in Quincy.
They each had an interesting story to tell.
Grant Meyer overcame the kind of adversity that would have had most people hanging up their sneakers to earn a starting spot and make his late mother proud. Dalton Hoover found a role coming off the bench, making the decision to return from a knee injury worthwhile. Von Washington III delivered on the promise to be a sniper when he transferred to Quincy from Western Michigan.
Herm Senor II became one of the best playmakers in the GLVC and took his uncanny ability to run an offense to England to play professionally. Tagarelli was one of the most dominant big men in NCAA Division II despite standing just 6-foot-5, and the footwork and touch that made him so effective is serving him well in a professional career in England.
McGaughey made himself into one of the best players to don the QU uniform. The Illini West product graduated as the fourth leading scorer in program history and in the top 10 in rebounding and blocked shots. His ability at 6-foot-8 to stretch the floor by knocking down 3-pointers and run the floor to finish fast breaks above the rim wowed crowds.
It also earned him the opportunity to play professionally in Germany.
And it was his athletic ability that made the play of the year possible.
Anyone who arrived at QU football games early enough to see the chain gang, which was made up of basketball players who volunteered for the job, toss the football around. McGaughey routinely launched the ball 40 or 50 yards with ease.
So a length-of-the-floor pass against Rockhurst that was right on the money was no big deal, right?
It was as improbable as the shot Tagarelli made.
Much like the Hawks' season, everything came together in the right moment to produce remarkable results.