Losing on a buzzer-beater when you've never been to the NCAA tournament, as Stony Brook experienced Saturday in the America East title game, is heartbreaking from a sports perspective.
But the kid who hit the buzzer-beater knows real heartbreak, which made his game winner for Albany even more special than it initially appeared to a national audience.
Peter Hooley was the Great Danes' leading scorer when he took an extended leave of absence in January and flew back to his native Australia to be with his mother, Sue, in her final days after a four-year battle with colon cancer.
Sue was the kind of mom who took her hoops-loving son all over the country for practice and training sessions. Quick with the constructive criticism, but also with the encouraging word -- even when she was fighting cancer and watching her son's college games in the middle of the night on the other side of the world.
“She was coach, she was doctor, she was everything when she watched him,” her husband Jeff told The Saratogian. “For her over the last four and a half years to be able to watch Pete doing what he wanted to, it just, yeah, it brought tears to her eyes. The iPad was never out of her hand.”
So Peter had to be there for his mom at the end. And he was, spending the last couple of weeks of Sue's life with her before she passed away at the age of 52 in late January. Hooley missed eight games while in Australia and his teammates went 8-0 in his absence. They also played a huge part in his grieving process.
"It's been everything for me," Hooley said earlier this month. "Here's another family on the other side of the world that's helped me transition back into my life over here. They are my brothers, and they're always here for me. When I fall down, they pick me back up and they know I'd do the same for them."
And so it was on Saturday, at the end of a game Albany had trailed nearly the entire way, including by seven with under two minutes to go. At the end of a game in which Hooley had made just two of his 13 shots. At the end of a game in which the top-seeded Great Danes were about to lose on their home court with an NCAA tournament bid on the line.
Then it happened.
As the Albany students rushed the court and pandemonium surrounded him, the man of the hour was overcome with emotion. And there seems to be little doubt who he was thinking of at that moment.
Angels, man! Angels!! #KeepFlying let's dance again!!— Peter Hooley (@PeterHooley12) March 14, 2015
After the game, he described the game winner as "the best moment of my life." Watch that interview here:
Peter's sister, Emma, was home in Australia and just as emotional.
Mum was with you Pete!!!!! Tears all over this house😭😭😭😭😭🙌🙌🙌👼— Emma Hooley (@emhooley) March 14, 2015
So so so proud of you @PeterHooley12 I'm speechless! I know one angel who is smiling down on you big time right now— Emma Hooley (@emhooley) March 14, 2015