Did you believe what you just saw?
With her team trailing by two and facing WNBA playoff elimination against the Chicago Sky at the Thomas & Mack Center last Sunday, Dearica Hamby of the Las Vegas Aces stole a pass at midcourt, forgot there still was plenty of time to pass to a wide-open teammate or dribble in herself for a game-tying basket, and launched a prayer from 38 feet — give or take an incredulous inch or two — with 7.6 seconds still showing on the clock.
That went in. For a game-winning 3-point basket. Hamby had come up Aces.
They’re calling it the “Miracle at the Mack” as it takes its rightful place among some of the most fantastic finishes in Las Vegas’ recent sports history — many of which I have witnessed from the press box or press row or, in the case of some of the road games, on a low definition television hanging from a corner of a smoky bar.
We put together a list of some of the exciting endings and reached out to some pals in the local sports media — Associated Press sports columnist Tim Dahlberg, Channel 8 sportscaster Ron Futrell, Las Vegas Motor Speedway vice president and Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame trustee Jeff Motley, fellow RJ sports columnist Ed Graney and assistant sports editor Al Leiker — for their thoughts and additions.
Here’s a look at some of the memorable finishes we’ll never forget — buzzer beaters and other heart-stoppers that proved Yogi Berra was right when he said “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
One for the ages
George Foreman KOs Michael Moorer for world heavyweight title (1994)
Trailing on the scorecards with time running out in the 10th round, his left eye nearly swollen shut and looking every bit of his 45 years, George Foreman landed the big one.
The MGM Grand Garden roared and blinked its collective eye in disbelief. Michael Moorer was counted out as once gruff but now lovable Big George became the oldest man to hold the title of world heavyweight champion.
“It happened! It happened!,” HBO’s Jim Lampley said, repeating it for effect — or to convince himself that it really had happened.
UNLV beats Baylor on 99-yard fumble return (1999)
Trailing 24-20 and out of timeouts, the UNLV football team was ready to shake hands with Baylor when the Bears got another idea and tried to run up the score on the game’s final play.
The football gods were watching and unleashed a bolt of lightning.
Baylor’s Darrell Bush fumbled into the end zone. UNLV’s Kevin Thomas scooped up the loose ball and ran more than 100 yards in the opposite direction, giving the Rebels the most preposterous of victories while teaching the Bears the most meaningful of lessons.
San Jose meltdown
Sharks bounce Knights after third-period blitzkrieg (2019)
With the Golden Knights up 3-0 midway through the third period in Game 7 of a first-round playoff series they had led three games to one, Vegas’ Cody Eakin was assessed a controversial major penalty for cross-checking Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks scored four power play goals in 4:01 — only to see a resilient Vegas side tie it in the last minute after pulling goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
But when Barclay Goodrow scored late in overtime, San Jose became just the second team in NHL history to overcome a three-goal deficit in the third period of a Game 7 not soon to be forgotten.
San Diego stunner
UNLV rallies from 10 down in 0:29 (2005)
The UNLV basketball team trailed San Diego State 81-71 with 29 seconds to play before mounting one of the most furious comebacks in NCAA history. The Rebels outscored the Aztecs 10-0 in a flurry that didn’t actually begin until only 18 seconds remained when Odartey Blankson scored on a putback.
SDSU turned the ball over; Blankson was fouled on a 3-point shot and sank all three free throws. The Aztecs missed two free throws; Jerel Blassingame hit a 3 with nine seconds left. The Aztecs made one free throw; Curtis Terry hit an off-balance 3 from the right side at the buzzer to tie it.
The Rebels won 93-91 in overtime. The Fat Lady finally sang.
Byrd’s an ace
Jonathan Byrd wins Shriners Open with hole-in-one (2010)
Daylight was running out at the 2010 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open when Jonathan Byrd stepped to the 17th tee on the fourth hole of sudden death wielding a 6-iron.
His shot pierced the gloom at TPC Summerlin and found the hole.
It was the only tournament in PGA history decided by a hole-in-one and a flashlight.
Cashman crashes down
Peter Alonso hits walk-off HR in Cashman Field’s last game (2018)
Before he became Pete Alonso and started hitting prodigious major league home runs, he was Peter Alonso of the Las Vegas 51s. And he hit the last pitch ever thrown in a ballgame at Cashman Field for a game-winning home run.
As he circled the bases, a chunk of the press box ceiling caved in.
Time for a new ballpark.
Thunder beats Lightning
Julio Cesar Chavez stops Meldrick Taylor with two seconds to spare (1990)
Needing a knockout to retain his world title and keep his 68-0 record intact, the Great Mexican Champion delivered one in dramatic fashion — with two seconds to go in the 12th and final round — to beat Meldrick Taylor at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Referee Richard Steele was vilified for waving off the fight with Taylor ahead on two of the three scorecards, but ultimately was vindicated when Taylor never fully recovered from the vicious beating he absorbed in the final rounds.
Tiger’s tale begins
Tiger Woods wins first pro tournament in Las Vegas (1996)
A lot of people forget that Tiger Woods earned his first PGA Tour victory in Las Vegas. Unless you were in the gallery the day he did it. In which case you’ll never forget it.
He was 20 then, and after five rounds and 90 holes of the Las Vegas Invitational he was tied with Davis Love III. Love found a greenside bunker on the first hole of sudden death. Tiger did what Tiger does.
“We knew he was going to win. I just didn’t want it to be today,” Love said after the cheers subsided. “Everybody better watch out — he’s going to be a force.”
Rubbin’ and racin’
Kurt Busch loses to Ricky Craven in closest NASCAR finish (2003)
With two laps to go in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, leader Kurt Busch of Las Vegas and second-place Ricky Craven started treating their race cars as if they were empty beer cans.
Slam. Bang. Crush.
The two crossed the finish line practically melded together. Craven was deemed the winner by .002 of a second — the closest finish in NASCAR history.
Lightning gets struck
Golden Knights beat Tampa Bay on late goal (2017)
Tied 3-3 with the NHL’s best team, Shea Theodore wound up from the top of the faceoff circle and blasted the puck past Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy with 2.3 seconds to play for a victory serving notice the Golden Knights were for real in their inaugural season.
All four Vegas goals came on the power play, which if you were one of those making T-Mobile Arena shake from its foundation, mattered not one iota. Or even a half-iota.
High school heroes
Bishop Gorman wins in triple OT (2016)
The Friday Night Lights were shining bright on Bishop Gorman’s football team when it hosted St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida in a televised showdown of national high school powers. Gorman won 25-24 in triple overtime on two-point conversion run — by Muhammad Ali’s grandson (Biaggio Ali Walsh).
It was looking bleak for the home team in the first overtime when Tate Martell overthrew a wide-open receiver in the end zone. Down to their last snap, the Gaels were able to play on when their Ohio State-bound quarterback threaded the needle on a touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line.
Rubbin’, racin’, fightin’
Kyle Busch crashes, gets punched in the nose (2017)
On the last lap on the Kobalt 400 on his hometown track, Kyle Busch was run into by Joey Logano, sending Busch spinning down the pit road and triggering a melee between the drivers and their teams after Martin Truex Jr. avoided the wreck and drove away for a victory.
When Busch was pulled away from the scrum, he was bleeding from a cut on his forehead.
Fantastic finish or just one of them’ racin’ deals? You be the judge.
Lady Rebels erase 22-point deficit with 0:01 to spare (2009)
Trailing by 22 points with 1o minutes to play, the Lady Rebels outscored Air Force 30-7 and scored the winning points in a 64-63 victory on a basket by Dominique Harris with 0:01 showing on the clock.
The game was at Air Force, meaning only a few dozen spectators may have witnessed UNLV’s comeback and that no video evidence of Harris’ buzzer-beater is known to exist.
But it’s probably safe to assume she did not consider a 3-point attempt from 38 feet before settling for a layup.
Hold all tickets
It was the night the lights went out at Sam Boyd Stadium, and while it wasn’t exactly a fantastic finish, it certainly was an extraordinary one.
Wisconsin was leading UNLV 27-7 in front of a record crowd of 42,075 when the playing field went darker than a Las Vegas showroom on Monday night.
Before it went black, the scoreboard clock had shown there was 7:41 remaining — or 2:41 from being considered an official game by the Las Vegas sports book standard. The wagers of Wisconsin fans who had packed the stadium and bet on their team to cover the 7-point spread were refunded, and the sports books saved a bunch of money.
A skeptical public cried conspiracy — especially when the report of a car striking a transformer near the stadium proved false. The blackout eventually was blamed on a cable that was part of the Nevada Power main feed burning out.
When Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez walked across the field to meet his UNLV counterpart, John Robinson told him the contract stated an incomplete game would go down as a scoreless tie.
“He jumped a foot off the ground, and I said I was kidding,” Robinson recalled.