Hampton Bays’ boys basketball coach Pete Meehan’s head was spinning after a triple-overtime win over Westhampton. It was a packed house at home against a rival school. Jon Salas hit two game-saving three-pointers. Meehan knew guard Jack McNamara was in the zone at the free throw line, but he was still surprised when he looked at the stat book.
McNamara went 20-for-20 from the foul line, including eight makes in overtime, on his way to a 32-point performance in the 77-71 win on Dec. 28. His clutch performance earned him Newsday’s Athlete of the Week honors.
“I said, ‘wow 19-for-20 wouldn’t have been good enough,’” Meehan said. “He’s a kid who likes it when the lights are on and the scoreboard is lit up.”
It’s true, things are different when the scoreboard isn’t plugged in. In practice, Hampton Bays uses a drill called ‘free throw ladder’, where groups of two will shoot 1-and-1’s to 11. There is a cumulative leaderboard and players can’t play someone more than two spots ahead. Meehan says McNamara is usually on the lower half of the list.
“I’m a decent [jump] shooter and honestly not much of a free throw shooter,” McNamara said. “But when there’s a lot of people watching I like to do my thing…I basically feed off my teammates and my friends in the crowd.”
McNamara was certainly feeding off Salas, who hit a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and hit another 3-pointer at the second overtime buzzer to tie it at 69 and force a third overtime. As the lone junior starter among four seniors for Hampton Bays (9-1), McNamara is averaging 12.6 points per game this season and is 35-for-41 from the line as of Saturday.
“He’s been coming to [Hampton Bays’] summer camp since he was in second grade, so he has taken many free throws in our gym over the years, more than most kids,” Meehan said. “He’s a fearless kid who doesn’t show emotion either way, and he plays with a lot of confidence and wants the ball in his hands.”