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Watch: Unified buzzer-beater leads to overtime, perfect ending

Sean Kirst

A buzzer-beating finale to regulation play Wednesday, in a game between two of Western New York's original unified basketball high school teams, is gathering appreciative attention on Twitter.

The shot from the lane by Frontier Central High School's Reid Heinrich against visiting Eden High School pushed the contest into an overtime session that ended in a tie. Rich Kozak, a Frontier coach and parent who caught the moment on video, said it equated to a rare situation in high school sports.

"There were only winners," Kozak said, a thought echoed by Eden coach Jen Carriero.

"It was a perfect ending, because both teams played so well neither one deserved to lose that game," she said.

With time running out Wednesday, a clutch basket by Eden's Richard Seebald gave his team a 44-42 lead. Only seconds remained when Jonah Kozak, Rich's son, took the ball under his own hoop and inbounded it to teammate Caleigh Fleming.

She sprinted upcourt before firing a pass to Heinrich, 17, a sophomore who caught the ball above the lane, drove a few steps past the foul line, pulled up and calmly drained his shot.

Once Heinrich saw the ball go through the net and turned to run toward his bench, he was buried in hugs and congratulations from jubilant teammates and fans. "The game was tied, and I like playing in front of my friends, and I was happy for that," he said afterward.

Both teams scored a basket in overtime, and Frontier coach Don Heppner said he and Carriero agreed to end the game after one session, with the final score a 46-46 tie. The most important question, after such a hard-played contest ended in a standoff, within a culture that often treats a tie as a kind of disappointment: Were players on both teams happy with that result?

"Oh my God, yes," said Heppner, who joined Frontier athletic director Richard Gray in describing the reaction as another lesson in what they learn from the unified players, every day.

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