Late Sunday afternoon, with 1:03 left in overtime, I leaned back in my chair during a timeout and looked all around the jam-packed HSBC Arena. I wanted to freeze the moment, so I could recall how it looked and felt and sounded on a day when Buffalo was at the center of the basketball universe.
Local hoop fans won't soon for get the events of the past few days. You wait all this time for this to be a big-time basketball town again, the way it was in the old days, and then the heart-stopping games come one after the other, so fast you can hardly catch your breath. On Thursday, St. Bonaventure's David Messiah Capers hits three free throws to force a second over time against Kentucky. The next day, in the opener of Buffalo's sub regional, Seton Hall's Shaheen Holloway makes a last-second drive to win in OT.
Then, in the most implausible story line of all, Holloway gets hurt in the final game of the weekend and his backup, sophomore Ty Shine, hits the game-winning shot to upset Temple in OT, 67-65.
A kid named Shine, a headline writer's dream, becomes the hero. Who makes up this stuff? All it lacked was a Buffalo connection. Wait a minute. As usual, there was a Buffalo connection.
Shine performed his heroics in front of nine extended family mem bers from Buffalo and Niagara Falls, most of whom had never seen him play.
His cousins and aunts and uncles sat in Section 101, figuring Shine would get his usual 17-18 minutes as a back up guard. But eight minutes into the game, Holloway severely sprained his ankle making a layup. Shine, a 6-foot sophomore from Augusta, Ga., replaced him and never left the floor again. He scored 26 points, seven over his career high. He made 7 of 11 three-pointers, had five assists and only two turnovers, and outplayed Temple's celebrated Pepe Sanchez.
"Coach (Tommy Amaker) gives me the green light," Shine said. "So when Shaheen got hurt, I started taking my shot when it was there. My first one had good form, good bounce on it. So I knew it was going to be a positive game for me."
When Ty hit his first two shots, Willie Shine started laughing. He recalled watching Ty's grandfather, Henry Shine, play point guard as a young man back in Greenville, Ala., where the Shines originated.
Henry was one of 10 children. He had 13 kids of his own, including three sets of twins. Ty's mother, Barbara Jo, was a twin. She had only one child, Ty. As you can imagine, the boy was his grandfather's pride and joy.
Henry died when Ty was 10 years old; Ty has a chain with Henry's name on it; he wears it every time he plays.
"There's a special sentiment there," said Willie Shine, who lives in North Buffalo and works for ITT. "His grandfather paid a lot of dues for him. He worked real hard."
Ty paid his dues, too. His father left after he was born. He grew up in Augusta and moved to Cincinnati for his senior year of high school to boost his grade-point average.
Shine went to Seton Hall to play for Amaker, knowing the Pirates had an elite point guard in Holloway. He started briefly as a freshman, but went back to the bench this year.
Meanwhile, Amaker had recruited the best high school point guard in New York City, Andre Barrett, and Shine heard he wasn't expected to start next year, either.
He grew discouraged at times. It didn't help that people called him the best backup point guard in the Big East. He had a lot of heart-to- hearts with Amaker.
"I'm telling you, it got real deep," Shine said. "I thought I could play more, and it affected my performance at times during the year. But if you're a good player and you have goals, you've got to be confident. If you're in a game that can get you to the Sweet 16, you have to be confident."
Confidence was certainly no problem against Temple. Shine shredded the Owls' vaunted match-up zone. At halftime, with Seton Hall up two, he heard Holloway was still at the hospital, getting X-rays. It was still his ball, his game.
They say senior point guards make the difference in the tournament. But Shine was a veteran now. Temple coach John Chaney did not do much to rattle him.
Shine set up Kevin Wilkins for a potential game- winning jumper at the regulation buzzer, but it skimmed off the rim.
So naturally, it came down to overtime, and if you loved basketball, you wanted it to go on forever.
By this time, Holloway was back from the hospital, sitting in a wheel chair at the far end of the Seton Hall bench, his left foot elevated, a solitary, helpless look on his face.
Temple went ahead, 65-63. Se ton Hall had the ball with 40 seconds left. It wound up in the hands of Shine, who pulled up from the top of the key and drilled the game- winning three with 19 seconds left.
Up in the stands, his relatives celebrated a family's shining mo ment -- Willie Shine, who played basketball at Trott and football at UB some 40 years ago; Eolene Shine, one of Henry's two surviving siblings; Silas Settle, of Buffalo; Brenda McCaster and Linda Ma thews, Ty's aunts from Niagara Falls, and their families. They're all branches of the Shine clan that migrated north for good industrial jobs in the 1940s.
"When he went up with that shot in overtime, I just knew it was going to fall," Willie Shine said. "I think his grandfather was on the end of it. I'm sure Henry was here today. We're big believers in the spiritual. When you have that spirit behind you and everybody pulls together, strange things happen."
An hour after the game, having talked with the media and showered, Shine emerged from the lock er room. Willie pulled out a cell phone and called Ty's mother back in Georgia. Ty talked to her briefly, promised to call her again from the airport, then hugged all his relatives and thanked them for coming.
"Let me know if you're coming to Syracuse," he said.
"Ty, one last thing," Willie said as his cousin walked away. "You look just like your grandfather."