Kearns makes three, three-point shots, the Generals shoot ahead for the win

The W&L men’s basketball team showed their grit in their game against EMU when they won with 0.4 seconds left

Tanner Smith

The Washington and Lee men’s basketball team was down by 85¬– 83 with six seconds to go in the 4th quarter against Eastern Mennonite University. But, Devin Kearns, ’19, shared a belief that they would prevail.

With six seconds on the clock, Kearns got the ball, turned to avoid a defender, and threw up a three point shot with 0.4 seconds left. The shot did not go in. The Generals, who are 8–10 on the season, still had a chance because Kearns was fouled on the play.

Kearns is a 74.1 percent free throw shooter on the season. According to Head Coach Adam Hutchinson, Kearns “never gets rattled and never gets too high or too low.” Kearns lived up to his coach’s praise by sinking all three free throws. Kearns knew while he was on the free throw line that he had the full support of his teammates.

“I was confident,” Kearns said. “It means a lot when, after [games], your teammates tell you that they weren’t worried at all and I knew that since they trusted me I had to just relax and make them.”

Kearns’s feeling of being supported was not just a confidence- building act from his teammates, as Hutchinson saw that confidence from Captain Andy Kleinlein, ’17, while Kearns was shooting the free throws.

“Andy turned and looked at me and smiled after the first free throw,” Hutchinson said. “[He] also turned to the bench and gave all of the guys a look. After [Kearns’s] second free throw, Andy high-fived me so I guess everyone knew he was getting the third one.”

Kearns was happy in the moment after he made his third shot, but he knew that he had to delay his celebration for 0.4 seconds.

“After the shots, I just thought to run back [on defense],” Kearns said, “because so often a team makes a shot toward the end of the clock and celebrates too early while the other team throws up a Hail Mary shot to win the game.”

That focus on running back on defense was an attribute that Hutchinson thinks turned the game around.

“The turning point in the game was when Roy McMillan, ’19, committed a turnover and Eastern Mennonite had a fast break attempt,” Hutchinson said. “There was nobody back there and it would have been easy for Roy to give up on the play. He ran the guy down and blocked his shot.”

Kleinlein played a non-trivial role in creating the seminal moment at the free-throw line for Kearns, as he scored 35 points in the game, including eight straight points that turned the game from a 73¬–70 deficit to a 78–73 lead with 3:10 left on the clock. Kleinlein, who currently holds the W&L record for highest three-point percentage at 45.2 percent for his career, found a different way to score in this game.

“Early in the game we were yelling at him ‘Shoot it, shoot it,’ wanting him to take jump shots, but he kept on driving.” Hutchinson said. “We were asking ‘Why isn’t he just shooting it?’ But he scored 35 points, so he obviously saw something that we didn’t.”

The Generals will take the court next on Feb. 1 against Shenandoah.