In Monday night’s championship game, Josh Sharkey watched from the bench as his squad fell behind by double digits in the game’s opening minutes.
When his number was finally called, the 5-9 point guard dug in and immediately picked up the length of the floor on defense.
Then came the defensive stops, clenching his fists with each matchup.
A few pretty passes from Sharkey later and the LOE offense was in business.
Years from now, the banners will tell the story of how Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens won the tournament’s MVP award. Ahmad Gilbert’s prolific shooting night will get its deserved mixtape. The herculean effort of Mike Watkins down low will likely be discussed,
Everybody in that gym on Monday night, however, knows that Sharkey was the straw that stirred the drink for the LOE’s first championship game victory.
“It’s my job to come in and bring the energy,” Sharkey said. “I just do what the teams asks me to do and that was to bring the energy today, speed the game up and make plays.”
Sharkey’s impact on the game helped LOE build a massive lead in the second half before 8EYE had climbed their way back into the game.
With less than five minutes left, 8EYE came out of a timeout with a chance to tighten up the score. Khalif Meares drove down the lane for 8EYE as Sharkey came flying to help on defense, knocking the ball away for a steal.
A few possessions later, the ball flew off the rim on a missed 8EYE shot. Sharkey darted his way across the court, snagging the ball on a dribble.
Nearly trapped by a defender and the sideline, the flashy guard spun to the crowd’s delight and darted up court.
Slashing down the lane, he found his longtime friend Lamar Stevens for a two-handed flush.
The gym roared in reaction to a moment that Stevens, Sharkey and their teammates had dreamed of forever.
“It’s something that we’ve been talking about for years,” Sharkey said of the opportunity to play in the Rumph Classic. “To come out here and put on a show for the city, especially (since) we haven’t played in the city since high school so not everybody has gotten the chance to see us … we were just really excited about this, something we’ve been talking about since we were little kids.’
He was described as the “heart and soul” of the team during the celebration after the game.
Despite a game full of dirty work, it was Sharkey who was given the privilege of knocking down the dagger three to seal the game.
A team inspired by the years of watching Rumph Classics gone by, Sharkey estimates that the first time he attended the event was around nine years old.
Nearly 16 years later, the 25 year old guard lived the dream with his best friends.
“We started this thing together,” Sharkey said of the team. “Since we were seven, eight years old, we’ve been playing basketball together and this, it means the world to win this championship.”
Yet, in the moment that the officials waved the game to completion, Sharkey was preoccupied.
The game’s clock hadn’t expired.
He was ready to play some defense.
“I thought we were still playing,” Sharkey said with a laugh. “At first, I didn’t know what was going on and I just saw people running off the court.”
The man whose effort turned the tide of the game, going full tilt beyond the game’s final seconds.