Mark Story: The shot seen 'round the world

Cumberlands guard's miracle shot makes 'SportsCenter'

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 25, 2011 

Here's what makes life — and sports — wonderful.

When Stephanie Quattrociocchi (Quat-tro-chuckie) woke up Saturday morning, she was your typical small-college basketball player. Meaning all but unknown to anyone beyond her circle of family and friends.

By Sunday evening, the University of the Cumberlands senior guard with the impossible-to-say last name was on ESPN's SportsCenter as the No. 1 play from the entire sports weekend.

"I couldn't believe it; they even said my name right," Quattrociocchi said Monday.

All it took was the 5-foot-7 senior rifling in an 86-foot buzzer beater to end the first half of Saturday's Cumberlands game against Campbellsville University.

Believe it or not, the most amazing thing about Quattrociocchi's shot is not that it went in, nor even that it was made by a smallish player who, she says, "has never been very strong."

Don't tell Jay Cutler, but the most improbable thing is the almost-full-court heave was hit by a player playing since the second game of this season with a torn ACL in her right knee.

"I didn't want my senior year to end because of being hurt," the Windsor, Ontario, product said. "This is my last year of basketball, so I'm wearing a brace, and I'm playing."

Five years ago, Quattrociocchi boldly came to small-town Kentucky (Williamsburg) from Canada for college. The middle of John and Linda Quattrociocchi's three girls, Stephanie was always the athlete in the family.

Her mom ruled out Canada's national pastime, hockey, as a sport for her smallish daughter because it was too rough, then basketball won out over soccer as Stephanie's favorite.

She wound up playing for an AAU team in Detroit, where her dad works as an engineer for General Motors. As time for college approached, Stephanie's AAU coach was pitching Cumberlands head coach Melissa Irvin to another player.

"We recruit all over," Irvin said. "I had a contact who told me about Stephanie. So I went to Canada, and I liked what I saw."

In her first year in Williamsburg, Stephanie wound up having to redshirt after she tore the labrum in a shoulder while lifting weights. "I told you, I'm not strong," she said.

On Saturday, she was plenty stout. Campbellsville had scored just before halftime to cut a Cumberlands lead to four points.

Quattrociocchi said there was a dispute over how much time should be on the game clock after the bucket so, while that was going on, she was joking with her teammates that it was time "for a trick shot."

It seems that, before Cumberlands practices, it is not uncommon for players to launch half-court shots and other unlikely attempts. Quattrociocchi always tried a conventional baseball throw on her half-court attempts.

"I never hit them," she said. "I never came close to getting it to the rim. Too far for me."

A couple of weeks back, she started using more of a hook-shot-type sling motion on long-distance heaves. "I told the other girls, you can get more power behind the shot," she said.

Her teammates were not sold. "They said it wouldn't be accurate," Quattrociocchi said, laughing.

Once the referees decided Saturday to put seven-tenths of a second on the game clock, Lauren Wombles inbounded the ball to Quattrociocchi right in front of her. Using her new hook-shot sling, Stephanie turned and let it rip.

When the ball went in, Quattrociocchi said, she was more stunned than elated.

"I turned to somebody, and I just said, 'Did that go in?' " she said. "I don't even know who it was."

In the Hollywood version, Quattrociocchi's shot would have propelled the Patriots to an upset victory of the No. 3 team in NAIA women's hoops. Instead, Campbellsville rallied after halftime and won 73-60.

After the game, Quattrociocchi said, she was upset over losing and not really thinking about the media implications in an Internet age of having hit an 86-foot shot.

So she was in a movie theater with friends when her cell phone started blowing up with texts.

"They were like, 'We just saw you on SportsCenter,' " Quattrociocchi said. "It was crazy."

Irvin, the Cumberlands coach, said officials at the Williamsburg school spent Monday marveling at how much attention the shot had brought to the university.

Ginger Colvin, the Campbellsville coach, said she spent Monday designing a more effective defense against 86-footers.

Not really.

"But we probably should," she said.

The Campbellsville coach saw some basketball justice in the 86-foot shot.

"You have a kid playing on a torn ACL, who had a shoulder injury earlier in her career, and who seems like a really good kid," Colvin said of Quattrociocchi. "I'm glad the shot didn't beat us, but I'm also glad for her that she will have this as part of her basketball memories."

When she logged onto her Facebook page after the shot made ESPN, Quattrociocchi reports, she "was hearing from people I hadn't heard from in years. It was pretty cool."

Now, Quattrociocchi has another hope for the aftermath of her heave.

"Maybe more people will know how to say my name," she joked.

Since the 86-foot shot seen around the world (wide leader), more people certainly have heard it.

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