COLUMBIA — The chant from the student section started early in the second half of Hickman boys basketball team's 64-40 win over visiting Helias Catholic on Friday, which was also Hickman's Senior Night.
“We want Richard! We want Richard!”
Richard is Kewpies senior Richard Bihomora, who started the season as the team’s manager and had not seen a minute of playing time since his promotion to varsity in late December.
The chants for Bihomora grew louder and louder until, with one minute left in the game, Hickman coach David Johnson looked towards the end of the bench, pointed at Bihomara and gave the crowd what they wanted.
As soon as Bihomora’s feet touched the court, the Kewpies had one goal: Get him the ball.
Sophomore Doug Johnson fired a pass to Bihomora, who was standing behind the 3-point line, and instantly put up a shot.
The ball harmlessly bounced off the rim, and the Helias players scrambled for the rebound, but Bihomora was not going to let his first shot as a member of the Hickman Kewpie varsity basketball team be his last.
On the next possession, Bihomora got the ball at the top of the key, pump faked and drew a foul with 10 seconds left in the game.
Bihomora walked to the free-throw line as the Hickman student section, the Kewpie Krazies, went insane. The entire Kewpies bench was linked arm in arm, praying that one of Bihomora’s shots would fall.
Bihomora took one dribble and shot his first free throw.
His teammates quickly ran up to him to give him words of encouragement as the bench and the crowd cheered Bihomora on.
Bihomora’s second shot hung in the air as the gym went completely silent.
The Kewpies quickly scrambled for an offensive rebound, doing everything they could to give Bihomora one more chance to score, one more chance for him to realize his dream of scoring in a varsity game.
A Hickman player finally got the ball and kicked it out to Bihomora as the clock was running down.
Bihomora hoisted up a 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded.
Nothing about the way the shot looked gave a hint that it was going to go in. It looked like it had been shot too hard. The spin was unorthodox, and there was just no way that that a kid who had just gotten his first varsity playing time just seconds earlier, was going to make a buzzer beater.
None of that mattered as the ball bounced off the backboard and fell threw the net.
Bihomora let out a primal scream as his teammates and the Kewpie Krazies mobbed him at center court.
For Bihomora, this was more than just a shot at the buzzer, this was a year of hard work validated in a single moment.
“This is the best feeling ever,” Bihomora said, “I started out as a manager. I worked my way up. I never looked down. I never gave up. I was just waiting for this night, and I can’t believe it actually happened. “
Coach Johnson commended the senior for his perseverance and dedication to the Hickman program and was elated to see Bihomora’s shot go in.
“It is a credit to him. It was a magical moment, obviously. It was great for him,” Johnson said. “He had a dream and a goal to wear a Hickman High School uniform. He has worked very hard and has given it everything he has and his dream came true. It is great to be a part of a moment like that”
Bihomora was lucky to get the chance to be on the bench at all. The senior didn’t even know if he was going to suit up for the game until an hour before game time.
“It was a last second decision to have him dress for the varsity today,” Johnson said. “He was down in the locker room, and I told him to go ahead and dress. He gave me a nice hug, and he had a huge smile, and the rest is history.”
As Bihomora was lifted onto the shoulders of his teammates and the Kewpie Krazies, the senior couldn’t help but be thankful for all the support they had given him.
“I have no one to thank besides my team. I wouldn’t be here if it was for the team and the Kewpie Krazies,” Bihomora said. “The whole crowd, everyone cheering for me, they made me make the shot."