That is Rudy Winters’ reaction to winning a pair of games on buzzer-beating shots for Excel Christian Academy this season.
Winters’ first buzzer beater came against Gordon Lee on Jan. 8, when Excel took everything that school’s basketball team could fire at them and proved exactly three points better because Winters — who had positioned himself in the corner — made a last-second 3-point shot to break the game’s tie.
“At the end we were kind of trading baskets,” Winters said. “Their shooter, Daniel Brooks, got hot, and he and I were going back and forth.”
In the second overtime, that trend continued until very late, when Chaz Phillips came up with a big steal for Excel with about six seconds remaining. He flipped the ball to Elijah Robinson and the Eagles quickly sped the ball downcourt, where Robinson found Winters waiting patiently for the shot.
“I just caught it and shot it,” the point guard said. “I felt like it was going in the moment I shot it.”
The ball found net and Winters had notched his first buzzer-beater to win a game, this one by the score of 62-59. He scored 27 of those points.
Winters second buzzer beater came over the weekend, in single overtime against St. Pius X.
The Excel star said his team played a better game against St. Pius, but the two teams still found themselves lighting up the scoreboard with similar numbers throughout the evening.
Excel trailed by six points at the half but managed to grab a one-point lead with three minutes remaining.
The two teams worked themselves into a tie and then essentially traded buckets until they were knotted at the end of regulation. They continued to trade buckets in the extra period until they had almost run out of time once again.
“We were tied when we came down and were running a pick and roll on them,” Winters said. “I looked at the clock on the first pick and saw there were only a few seconds remaining, so I just waited to kind of drain the clock before I shot. That way if I missed, they wouldn’t have time to make another shot and we’d go into another overtime.”
Winters said he finally pulled up and fired, once again believing he’d hit his shot when the ball was still in the air.
The ball found net, but just barely before the game-ending buzzer sounded, with Excel up 64-62, 34 of those points tallied by Winters.
Winters said the reaction by his teammates and home crowd was one of joy. “The crowd just stormed the court and my teammates were all hugging me.”
He said he was a little surprised by his own feelings.
“I’ve always imagined winning a game like that, but my reaction was different,” he said. “I didn’t think it would feel this great.”
Winters said when he took both shots, he expected to make them. “I feel like I can do it every time,” he said. “I don’t feel pressure.”
He said some Excel students say he has ice in his veins, but he’s really just trying to not let his teammates down.
“It’s hard to explain but they count on me. I see them as my brothers, their family. You never want to let family down.”
The Excel senior is averaging 20 points for his team, six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Something he believes he’s also doing is improving his game.
“I try to mimic my game to LeBron James as much as I can,” he said. “He just seems so dominant, like he can’t be stopped. I don’t know if I can get to that level, but I will get as close as I can. Everything he does, he does well. He makes his team better.”
Winters said he’s also enjoying Excel’s success this season.
The Eagles are now 21-1 and are a threat to make a deep run in the postseason.
“It feels real good,” he said. “Everybody’s working hard on the team.”
Coach Jon-Michael Nickerson said hitting a buzzer-beater is a rare feat, probably rarer than Winters realizes at this point in his life.
“I’ve been playing since I was 4 years old and I still play. I’ve hit game-winners but never at the buzzer. That’s a special thing and for it to happen twice is borderline miraculous.”