Christmas came early for Justin Wasmuth and family when he drained a $5,000 half-court shot Monday during halftime of an Emporia State University basketball game.
“I was in disbelief,” Wasmuth, principal at Marion Elementary School, said. “If I did it another 99 times I’m sure I wouldn’t make it again. It was more luck than skill.”
Wasmuth and family were attending the game because his son, Gavin, a fifth-grader at MES, had completed 10 5K runs throughout the year as part of an ESU Super Series of races.
“Gavin started the year at about a 24-minute time and finished his last race under 23 minutes,” Wasmuth said. “We were there with him so he could receive a medal for his accomplishment.”
At the game, there was a sign-up for the shooting competition. Wasmuth said he never expected to be picked or much less win.
“I’ve played basketball for the majority of my life and I love it,” he said. “When I got out there, I was thinking don’t embarrass yourself.”
He had 30 seconds to make a layup, a free throw, and shoot the trey, before he could take a stab at a half-court desperation shot.
“You just go as fast as you can,” Wasmuth said.
Making a layup, he rebounded and hustled back to the free throw line, squared up and shot.
“Air ball,” Wasmuth said. “I haven’t shot a free throw in I don’t know how long. I need to use more knee.”
Losing valuable time, he rebounded and tried again.
Cheers followed his swish.
He said he felt a little rusty but from the video his wife Valerie posted, Wasmuth was no doubt feeling it when he nailed a 3-point jump shot from the top of the key with less than 8 seconds left.
The race was on. He rebounded and sprinted back to half-court, taking a moment to situate himself before lobbing up his shot with 1 second left on the clock.
“When I put it up I thought it was going to very short, maybe not even make the free throw line,” he said. “I remember thinking I would be happy with just the free dinner and oil change they gave to participants. I’m a simple man.”
The ball sailed through the net as the buzzer blared and the crowd went wild.
In the video, Valerie points the camera on herself briefly and screams, “Oh my God! He just won!”
Wasmuth pumped his fists, high-fived people on the court, celebrating as his family cheered from the stands.
“They were stunned, and we were all very happy,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Wasmuth had yet to receive his prize money. Event organizers were reviewing the tapes to make sure all the rules were followed, Wasmuth said, but there will be a check presentation ceremony once they’re done.
“It’s a lot of money,” Wasmuth said. “We don’t have any real plans for it yet. We’re debating what, but it will be something good.”