We went to bed Thursday night and had never heard of Trey Johnson.
We woke up Friday morning, read about what he did, and now we can't get the basketball player from Hugo out of our heads.
When the day dawned, there were 20 teams still playing for high school state basketball titles in Oklahoma, but all that anyone was talking about was what happened in the Hugo-Millwood game the night before. It was the big front-page story in the sports section and a hot topic on websites both local and national. It was the buzz around the state tournament sites as well as the water coolers.
It was as unbelievable as it was gut-wrenching.
A kid whose team is ahead by one point in the final seconds of a win-or-go-home state tournament game loses his head, shoots a layup into the other team's basket and turns sure victory into agonizing defeat.
Anyone with a heart couldn't help feeling sorry for Trey.
But in the next breath, sympathy turned to concern.
How's he doing? Where is he? Is he going to be OK?
Those feelings spread far and wide Friday. USA Today picked up the story. So did Deadspin, a website where empathy and sympathy are rare commodities. We wanted to talk about our own embarrassing moments and reach out to athletes who've survived their own blunders, and the story made those athletes want to reach out to Trey.
What happened was just that devastating.
Hugo, a tournament regular from the southeast corner of the state, was locked in a defensive battle with prep power Millwood. Hugo took a 37-36 lead in the final minutes of the game, but Millwood had a chance to win when they inbounded the ball with 6 seconds left.
Hugo, though, forced a jump ball.
Possession arrow: Hugo.
The Hugo crowd, as big and loud as any at Yukon High School all day, went nuts. The Millwood crowd, always sizable and supportive, fell silent. Everyone knew that Hugo only had inbounds the ball in the backcourt and run out the remaining 3.7 seconds.
Hugo called a timeout, then set up its inbounds play. Johnson was supposed to sprint back toward the Millwood basket, and when he did, he broke free. The ball came to him, but instead of dribbling out the clock, he went right for the basket.
As the buzzer sounded and the ball fell through the rim, the gym stood still, everyone asking themselves the same question.
Was that the wrong basket?
Millwood 38, Hugo 37.
That was the news to which we awoke Friday morning. We didn't know that the kid is a three-sport athlete, that he's been the starting tailback on the football team since his freshman year, that he's a defensive whiz on the basketball team, that his best sport is actually baseball. We didn't know that he is an honors student, a quiet kid who spends most of his time with his girlfriend or his family.
We didn't know if he had a good head on his shoulders or a good support system around him.
Thankfully, he does.
“There's nothing that anybody can do or say that will change my opinion of him,” Hugo basketball coach Darnell Shanklin said. “He's a great kid, tremendous talent, and he'll do wonderful, wonderful things.”
Former Hugo football coach Courtney Latimore, now an assistant at Bishop McGuinness, said: “He's just one of those kids that you like having around. If I could, I'd take him anywhere I went.”
It tore at your heart watching him leave the arena Thursday night in tears, leaning on his father, preparing for a longer than normal four-hour drive back to Hugo.
As we tried to wrap our heads around what the 16-year-old was going through, we wondered if anything like this had happened in Oklahoma high school history. Nothing came to mind. We had to look outside the state borders and beyond the high school realm to find similar circumstances.
There was Chris Webber in the 1993 Final Four. Michigan had the ball with 19 seconds left, trailing North Carolina by two, when Webber called a timeout that the Wolverines didn't have. Webber was called for a technical, depriving Michigan of an attempt at a game-tying or winning shot. North Carolina hit four straight free throws, two from the technical, to clinch the title.
There was Derek Harper in Game 4 of the 1984 Western Conference semifinals. He was a rookie playing for the Dallas Mavericks, who found themselves tied with the Los Angeles Lakers in the final seconds. Instead of attempting a game winning shot, Harper dribbled out the clock, thinking that the Mavs had a lead.
The Lakers won in overtime, then closed out the series two nights later.
“It was an honest mistake,” Harper said via telephone.
Now the color analyst for Mavs' television broadcasts, Harper was in Detroit where Dallas was set to play Friday night. When he heard that a reporter from Oklahoma wanted to interview him about that nearly 30-year-old playoff mistake, he didn't ignore the request.
He says people are often surprised about how open he is about that blunder.
“You can run and hide if you want after a mistake, but at the end of the day, it's always going to be there,” he said. “I've always had a firm belief that we all make mistakes. It's not if. It's when.”
Harper not only accepted the mistake that he made in that playoff game but also decided to use it as fuel. It drove him in offseason workouts. It sparked him through 16 seasons in the league.
And in the process, that mistake didn't define him.
“You've got to be confident in yourself,” he said. “You can get through it.”
That, Harper said, is what he wanted to tell Trey, and through our connections, we were able to help with that.
Yes, Thursday afternoon Trey Johnson got a call and some words of encouragement from Derek Harper.
That wasn't the only call that he received. Thunder general manager Sam Presti heard about Trey and wanted to talk to him. The Thunder also extended a special invitation to attend Sunday's game vs. Boston.
Everyone wanted to wrap their arms around Trey.
From now on, we're going to be pulling for him. He is still a junior at Hugo, so he has more basketball and baseball and football to come. Keep up his grades in the classroom and continue to excel on the field, and who knows? College sports might be in his future. How could we not hope for that?
How could we not cheer for Trey?
A day ago, we had never heard of Trey Johnson. He was just another player on another team in the high school state basketball tournament.
Then, we woke up and heard his story. We know that sports teaches all sorts of wonderful lessons, but sometimes, the means to that end are harsh. Sometimes, they are down right dreadful.
We had a man down.
We put a hand down.