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BJ Holmes was 13-years-old the first time he stepped to the free throw line with a chance to win the match for his team, writes Richard Fidler.
Make it as a professional and there’s a chance that you’ll have hit a fair few pressure shots in your career.
But with ten seconds to play, the BBL Trophy final tied at 69-69 and the Leicester Riders fans doing their best to put him off from the sidelines surely 24-year-old Holmes must have been nervous.
How did he feel? “Ice,” he said. “I’ve been literally doing it (making free throws) since seventh grade.
“That’s what I thought about. I’ve been able to do this my whole life, so there’s no pressure. Don’t be nervous. Make the free throws like you know you can.”
Holmes was one of many Sharks heroes as they pulled off an improbable victory. The Riders had beaten them four times this season by an average of over 20 points.
Sheffield were also without guard Micah Williams and had one of his replacements, Nick Lewis, struggling with a stomach bug.
The plan was to make early three-pointers to get Riders out of their zone defence.
Holmes, three times, and Andrew Bridge, once, did that in the first quarter as Sheffield led 23-21. Demetrius Jemison came to the fore in the second quarter as Sharks moved 37-27 clear before Riders rallied to trim the lead to 39-36 at half time.
Sharks almost re-established their double-digit advantage in the third quarter but from 48-40 up they allowed Riders to level at 51-51 before a Holmes three capped a 10-2 close to the period.
An Olu Babalola basket and a Jemison two gave Sheffield their largest lead of the match at 65-53 early in the fourth quarter.
Riders are a quality team, though, and look likely to add the BBL Championship to the BBL Cup they won earlier in the season. It was no surprise when they finally clicked into gear and tied the match with a three by Jorge Calvo to cap a 16-4 run with one minute 18 seconds to play.
Neither team could edge in front until Holmes was fouled with ten seconds to play.
With fiancee Amber and one-year-old son BJ junior watching from the crowd the point-guard from Houston knew he dare not miss.
Holmes said: “Riders have beaten us four times, but it’s hard to keep beating someone over and over. We just needed to be better than them for one night - and we were.”
In case you’re wondering about those free throws he took when he was 13? He made both of those too. Ice.
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