PLAINVILLE - With under one second left on the clock before halftime, Sam Lozefski slid along the left down the sideline and received a pass from her teammate around the half-court line.
Free of Newington defenders and with little time to react, the sophomore guard for the Plainville girls basketball team hurled her momentum forward and heaved the ball with her right arm toward the basket, stumbling from the force of the shot.
Then, as quickly as it had left Lozefski’s hand, the ball glided smoothly through the hoop, hitting the inside of the net and landed with a few bounces on the floor. Her teammates and fans in the stands shouted with excitement. Newington’s head coach Rick Bangs looked on in disbelief.
“I kind of hooked-shot it from the side. I didn’t aim and it threw me downward. I looked up and I saw it and knew it was going in,” Lozefski said. “We were down eight points. Coach always tells me to work to the last second and that’s what I needed to do until I heard the buzzer or the whistle. When I made the shot, I saw my coach and we glanced at each other for a second and ran to each other. I can’t really explain it.”
The Blue Devils would go on to fall to the Indians that Jan. 6 day, 47-46, in a close-knit game. But the shot had represented so much more.
“In a way, I felt like it was my grandfather at that moment,” Lozefski said.
Just two days prior, the 15-year-old Lozefski had visited her grandfather, John, who had been rushed to the hospital, his battle non-Hodgkin's lymphoma getting worse. “Papa”, as she called him, would pass away during the game. Lozefski’s father was called away just after halftime, after the shot.
It was until the game had finally ended that Lozefski learned the person she had been told she was so much alike was gone.
“I'm compared a lot to how he acts and how strong he is,” she said, her voice trailing away at the end.
“It was really quick,” she added. “I was proud of myself and my team because of how hard we had worked, and as soon as my mom opened the door I knew exactly what had happened. Her face said it, and deep down I knew.”
Basketball had always been Lozefski’s refuge, her outlet as a way to distract herself when needed. Just her, the court and the basketball, and this was no different.
“I woke up that morning and was like ‘OK, he’s doing fine,’” Lozefski said. “I know he’s still in the hospital and it bothered me all day during school. And then during the game I started playing and got in my own mindset. Basketball usually distracts me. It’s a big part of my life. We invest a lot of time in it, it’s not just one part of the year. I see basketball as a way to escape sometimes.”
But the shot, in which she felt her grandfather with her, had provided Lozefski with more than a great memory during a tough time. It added to an ever increasing assurance within herself and her own game.
“I feel like I’m a lot more confident than I was in the beginning of the season,” Lozefski said.
“I learned right then and there how strong she is,” her mother, Marisol, said. “As a mother, I thought I was going to have to hold them and she held us up pretty much with how strong she was. She grew up right in front of my eyes. She’s stronger than I’ve ever seen.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach