Thought Derek Hatfield's football career was over at Estero High School?
Not if basketball coach Terrance Thomas continues to draw up plays like the one he did in the final seconds against Cypress Lake on Friday night.
With his team behind by two points and only 4.1 seconds left, Thomas called upon Hatfield to throw a bomb the length of the court.
It nearly worked.
"I drew that up in the huddle," said Thomas. "I picked Hatfield because he's a quarterback. He threw a nice pass. Sophomore (Brendan Smith) playing his second varsity game caught the ball, pump faked, just in-and-out. Probably couldn't have drawn up a better play, probably couldn't have got a better pass. We just didn't make it."
Instead, the Wildcats were dealt their ninth straight loss, 55-53.
Standing under the hoop on the far court, Hatfield rifled a perfect pass that was caught in stride by Smith in the paint. Smith's layup attempt rolled out as time expired.
"Brendan played great for us all night," said Estero guard Carl Bleich. "He just got a bad bounce. That's life sometimes."
"We put a play together as quickly as we could and went out and tried to execute it," said Hatfield, a senior co-captain who didn't see much playing time until the fourth. "We came up short, but I thought it was a good try."
The fact Estero (0-9) was actually still in a game late in the fourth quarter served as a confidence boost.
"We are confident now," said Bleich, who had seven points. "(Cypress) is supposed to be one of the better teams in our district. We're going to get a good week of practice next week and we're going to come out firing, ready for (Friday) and the Christmas Tournament."
"It's a very good step," added Hatfield. "They're supposed to be first or second in the district. We competed with them. It makes us feel like we can compete with everyone in our district and have a good chance."
The Wildcats had a chance to win Friday thanks to the smooth shooting of forward Mike Shields, who had a game-high 17 points, including 11 in the second half.
A 3-pointer by Antonio Roman (nine points) gave Estero a 43-39 lead to start the fourth quarter.
Samuel Kerr (eight points) was a force for Estero at both ends in the final minutes. His basket with 2:20 left gave Estero its final lead of the night at 50-49.
After a timeout with 8.5 seconds left, Sheilds missed a 3-pointer, but Kerr put in the rebound to get the Wildcats to within 54-53.
Controversy erupted after Kerr's basket because the clock apparently started late and only ticked off 2.3 seconds. The referees opted to chop another second off, though more time than that had likely expired.
Would this be the break Estero needed to get into the win column?
The Wildcats immediately fouled Justin Barnes, who missed his first free-throw and then made the second, setting the stage for Estero's gallant last second effort to tie that came up short.
"I'm proud of them tonight," said Thomas, in his first year at the helm of the Wildcats. "They didn't lay down. They came out intense and ready to play. Only time I get upset is if they lay down, and they didn't lay down tonight. They really fought."
Cypress (2-6) was led by forward Grant Cragun (22 points) and Barnes and Mark Davis, each with 11 points.
"Boxing out was really a big thing that killed us tonight," said Thomas. "We really wanted to pressure them. I think we could have pressured them a little better. We really wanted to get their point guard rattled, but they're good players. They handled it well."
Estero built a 16-7 lead — the largest of the game — in the opening quarter behind back-to-back 3-point plays from Roman.
The Wildcats led 17-9 after the first eight minutes before being outscored 16-7 in the second quarter.
Estero entered this season having won just one game in each of the past two seasons. The Wildcats believe it's a matter of when, not if, this season's losing streak will end.
"We're staying up," said Bleich. "We had a tough five game start. We're trying to keep the team morale up and I think it's going pretty well. We've got good senior leaders and they're keeping their heads up and so is everyone else."
"It's been rough," added Hatfield. "Not winning a game is hard on anybody, but everybody is staying positive and trying to work as a team and get things done."