(Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)

Before I stepped on the court for the big game, I did two things. First I said a prayer with my teammates in the locker room. Then as we were about to take center stage, I crossed my heart and pointed my finger to the sky, just because you never know what could happen. You never know which game will be your last, and I try to remember that it's a blessing to be out there.

When I met up with my parents before the game, I wanted to treat it like a normal game. Even though this was for the National Championship, I didn't want the moment to be any bigger than it was. I felt confident that afternoon, but as soon as the ball was tipped, my shot was just off.

Fortunately, my faith in God has made me a better basketball player. I think it would be easy to get down about that moment, but being a Christian helps keep your life in perspective. I try not to get too high or too low, because I know that one game or one shot wasn't going to define me as a person.

Of course, I still wanted to win the game. Our whole team did, as did our student body back home in South Bend.

The score was tied at 58-58 when we called a timeout with three seconds to go, and the plan was to get the ball to our post player, Jessica Shepard. She was having a great game, and we felt confident that if she could get the ball in her hands she would score. The only problem was that Mississippi State felt the same way, so they made sure she couldn't get a good look.

The five second mark was approaching on the inbounds pass, so even though I was 30 feet away from the basket, I was the best option at that point.

I caught the ball near the right wing, not that far from where I took my shot against UConn, but this time I drifted toward the baseline and let it fly. It was a moment every player dreams of when they are a little kid, and here I was, watching as the ball flew in the air with less than a second to go.

And then it went in. The National Championship belonged to Notre Dame.

 
 

It's still crazy to think that making a shot like that is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was blessed enough to have two of them in three days. I try to tell people that any of my teammates could have hit that shot, and if it hadn't been for them, I don't even know if we would have been in a position to win that game.

I've asked myself the question why me...why did God choose me to hit those shots? I don't think it's a question I'll ever get answered. All I know is I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and keep my faith first.

My faith has gotten me to this point, and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.

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Thomas Hager1 Comment