PLYMOUTH — Clayton Miller took the inbounds pass and sent up a prayer.
The Plymouth senior saw time running down on the third quarter of his team's game against Mansfield Christian on Tuesday night and just wanted to try to make something happen for his team as he launched a full-court heave as time expired.
The ball traveled through the air for what seemed like an eternity. By the time it had hit the floor, it ripped through the net on the other end to give the Big Red the most unlikely 3-pointer of all time. The odds of the shot going in have been calculated at 1,500 to 1, and Miller beat the odds as video of his shot took social media by storm.
Miller can recall every detail of the moment.
"There was like five seconds left and they inbounded it to a kid who made a nice floater on the baseline," Miller said. "I was actually getting ready to take the ball out, but I saw the clock so I had Carson (Tucker) take it out and he flipped me the pass and I just chucked it. It went in and I had no clue how to react."
His teammates shot off the bench like there were springs in their shoes, Plymouth coach Marty McKenzie's arms shot in the air in celebration and the Big Red faithful hopped out of their seats in amazement. Meanwhile, the Mansfield Christian players, coaches and fans could only drop their heads in disbelief.
"They cut it to nine with that floater and they were starting to pull in the momentum, but that shot just deflated everything," McKenzie said. "What do you say to your team after your opponent makes a shot like that? It is an unheard-of shot. Meanwhile, I spent all 60 seconds trying to calm my guys down so we could play the fourth quarter."
The Big Red ended up calming down and regaining composure long enough to pull out the 63-48 victory.
But, it It isn't the first time Miller made an "impossible" shot.
During Plymouth's sectional semifinal game at Monroeville last season, the Eagles and Big Red were tied at 54. The Big Red had the ball and needed to go the length of the court in less than three seconds. Miller cut across the volleyball line, received the pass, took one dribble and fired from a step behind the half-court line.
A shot that had a 1-in-100 chance of falling dropped right through the net as the buzzer sounded, giving Plymouth a 57-54 win and advancing them in the tournament.
Again, Miller achieved the "impossible." But the half-court heave, unlike his full-courter, is something he regularly practices. Usually, it is at about 6:30 a.m. before anyone is in the school.
"In the morning when I come in to shoot before school, the last 10 minutes or so I will shoot some half-court shots," Miller said. "But that is more to kind of work on form and range more than to make a buzzer-beater to win the game."
Well, practice makes perfect.
But even that wasn't the first time Miller made a dramatic bucket.
On Jan. 16, 2020 in a home game against Crestview, the Big Red trailed the Cougars 58-56. With three seconds left, Miller gathered a pass on the left wing, elevated and sank the go-ahead shot to give his team a 59-58 win.
"When we run something late-game, his range is unlimited," McKenzie said. "It isn't 90 feet, but it is 45 feet or so. It is a huge luxury to have."
The sharpshooting senior has been at the center of the Big Red offense for the last three years, and he has consistently come through. But making dramatic shot after dramatic shot is unbelievable. And Miller isn't about to even try to find an explanation.
"I couldn't tell you," Miller said with a smile. "All that messing around after practices is paying off. We shoot two free throws, and after someone makes two I will take the ball out of the net and chuck it full court, just playing around, and I'd get close sometimes. I won't complain this is happening to me."
McKenzie, who posted the video of the shot on social media, said the full-court shot was the longest made bucket he has ever seen in 40 years of coaching at various levels. It did remind him of a shot he saw back in the mid-90s, though.
"We played St. Peter's back at the old gym so it had to be in the mid-80s, and Jeff Bloomfield hit one from three-quarters-court at the buzzer to win the game," McKenzie said. "That was the longest shot I could remember in 40 years of coaching. It was just beyond the opposite free-throw line. But Clayton's tops them all."
McKenzie knows why special things are happening when Miller has the ball in his hands. He has seen firsthand how much work the senior puts in when no one is watching. An early riser, McKenzie usually gets to Plymouth High School, just around the corner from his house, around 6:30 a.m.
Each day, Miller is right there waiting for his coach to pull into the parking lot so he can get in the gym and get shots up before the home room bell rings. He gets the gun out and fires shot after shot after shot, all before a full day of school starts.
"He is making a habit of it," McKenzie said. "He made one against Crestview his sophomore year at the buzzer to win the game, then last year he made one from half court to beat Monroeville in the tournament to win us the game. This summer, we were playing a summer-league game at Ridgedale and he makes a three-quarters-court shot in a game.
"But this one was incredible. Our gym floor is 94 feet, so it had to be around 90 feet or so."
Miller's ability to make the near-impossible shot mixed with his dedication makes McKenzie's job easy when he is tasked with drawing up a play in crunch time.
"I know whose number I am calling at the end of a ballgame," McKenzie said with a laugh. "There is no doubt where we are going. Last year at Monroeville he could have taken another two dribbles, but when he pulled up from half-court and as soon as it left his hand I could just see it going in."
So, of his three amazing shots, which is Miller's favorite?
"The game-winner is cool with it being from half-court and winning us the game, but that full-court shot and never seeing it happening before is pretty cool," Miller said. "It's just so rare."
Rare, yes. But for a kid who puts in the effort and does things the right way, good things happen to good people — like having full-court-shot prayers get answered.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Miller's full-court shot not the first time he made an 'impossible' shot