George Mason’s buzzer beater from a band’s eye view

What George Mason’s big shot looked like up close.

Homecoming Weekend at George Mason wrapped up in a dramatic way, with a buzzer-beating three from sophomore Nicole Cardaño-Hillary to give Mason their first win over Dayton since March 3, 2016.

The score was tied 51-51 with 2.4 seconds left. Coming out of the timeout, junior Sarah Kaminski inbounded the ball to Cardaño-Hillary who caught the ball, turned and shot it. As the shot flew through the air, time slowed down. As the shot rattled in, EagleBank Arena exploded. The fans, bench, student section and pep band (where I spend most of my time when I’m in EagleBank) all erupted in cheers as the arena rose to its feet.


Mason is home to the number one pep band in the country and we regularly outdraw the student section at women’s basketball games. I play the baritone and found myself standing on the last step before the upper level on the side opposite of the buzzer-beater, a vantage point that rarely benefits me. However, today it did.

I had just put my instrument down after we finished playing “Bulls” by Rage Against the Machine. I saw Sarah pass it to Nikki, held my breath as the ball went up and threw my hands up as it rattled in. As the team rushed to surround Nikki, we quickly snapped out of our shock to play the Fight Song. By the time we finished, the team had come over to thank us as they do after every game, and head coach Nyla Milleson joined them as well.

I then picked up my media pass to head to the press conference. After picking up my final box score and quickly saying hi to Natalie Butler who was one of the alumni honored between the third and fourth quarter, I finally made it to the media room.

When asked if the final play was what she drew up, Milleson responded, “That was exactly [what I drew up]. It was to get the ball to Nikki [Nicole Cardaño Hillary] and again you got Sarah Kaminski, she’s our best inbounder without question so it was for Nikki. I kind of thought maybe she’d put the ball on the floor, but also I mean that’s her game is that little step-back three, she was on balance, she was on rhythm. And I think they thought that she was going to put the ball on the floor too. Some games they go and some games they don’t and we’re fortunate today that Big Shot Nikki made a big shot.”

Cardaño-Hillary later added, “I wasn’t worried about who was coming I was just focused on that shot so it feels great I mean all my team running up and hugging me and cheering for me that’s an incredible moment that I’ll never forget.”

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