Journal-World photographers Richard Gwin, Nick Krug and I all photographed the Kansas University basketball game against Missouri on Feb. 25. Here’s how each of us worked the waning seconds of the Jayhawks’ overtime win:
I was sitting on the baseline at KUs end of the court. With 10 seconds left in overtime, and KU down 85-86, Tyshawn Taylor drove to the basket for a shot.
Blocked by the backs of three Tigers and one zebra (referee) I couldn’t see the slashing guard and document the critical play. Tyshawn was fouled and went to the line for two free throws.
These baskets were crucial to the outcome of the game, but free throws don’t make compelling images. So with 8.3 seconds on the clock and Tyshawn at the line, I searched the crowd for a reaction photo.
I spotted former KU player Markieff Morris, surrounded by fans, his hands at his face as in prayer, watching Taylor sink both shots.
I felt it did a good job conveying the anxiety and tension of the moment. Events after the game are a blur with me chasing Taylor and a visually excited coach Bill Self.
As players moved off the court to the exit, I stopped to frame cheering fans above the scoreboard, a fitting final frame of the night.
In the last three minutes of OT, I was concentrating on how to best tell the story of the game in both video and stills.
Although I couldn’t shoot video during the game because of KU regulations, I worked to get good still pictures of game action to tell that part of the story. I had video from before the game, but now I needed to focus my still camera on images of the scoreboard and faces in the crowd displaying excitement and sadness.
As Tyshawn Taylor made free throws to give KU its lead, I focused on student fans dropping their arms on a final swish of the basket.
At the end I ran onto the court to find Taylor or Thomas Robinson, and although I got blocked by a competing paper’s photographer, I managed to get frames of a celebrating Taylor.
My stress level always spikes at the end of a game like last Saturday’s.
Partially, it’s because so much was riding on those last few possessions with regard for the visual report of the game. But also, do-overs don’t exist in sports photojournalism any more than they do in basketball.
One of the biggest decisions to make in times like this is what lens to commit to. I don’t like fumbling around from camera to camera looking for the right focal length while guys are putting up the winning shot. Usually I’ll go with a 70-200 zoom, which gives me enough room on the front court and a loose look at the far court to show some environment.
During the last possession I kept my lens trained on the action. When Missouri failed to get a shot off at the end, I immediately turned to center court where I knew the KU players would be rushing and celebrating.
In my line of fire was Travis Releford swinging his shirt before the fieldhouse crowd. I then hurried out to the court with a wide-angle lens to get closer to the celebration.
To call it chaotic is putting it lightly when a place like Allen Fieldhouse erupts. Players and coaches are jumping around while other photographers are jockeying for the right position on a shot. In situations like this I think instincts take over and you just gravitate to the most demonstrative person on the court. In this case I think that person may have been Bill Self.