EAST GARFIELD PARK — With seven seconds left and the Marshall Commandos down by one point, Arthur Agee took control and released a jump shot, as the crowd of 500 rose to its feet.
The ball hit the rim, but Agee got the ball back for a layup to win, 72-71.
“I don’t think I could’ve walked out of here with my head held high if I missed it,” said Agee.
It was almost like old times with Agee, who was featured in the 1994 film “Hoop Dreams,” and other Marshall High School alumni on the court. Except that one Commando, Shawn “Shake” Harrington wasn’t on the court with them.
Harrington, 38, Marshall’s assistant basketball coach, was paralyzed from the waist down when he was shot twice in the spine protecting his daughter Jan. 30.
The game was a benefit for Harrington, with Marshall alumni facing off against all stars from the old Chicago West Red League.
"I never expected nothing like this. I expected a good turnout, but this has been overwhelming. I can't thank these guys enough," Harrington said after circling the crowd at halftime. "All these people in the gym that have been supporting me through all this is the reason I've been able to be so upbeat and in positive spirit."
Dorothy Gaters, the legendary Marshall basketball coach who owns more than 900 wins, organized the match, coordinating with Harrington’s old teammates and opponents. She knew the Marshall community would rally around the cause, she said.
"We're basketball people just like Shawn," Gaters said. "You won't see any dunks. Everyone is below the rim today. Some of them are out of shape, but it's still fun to watch."
When “Hoop Dreams” was filmed two decades ago, Agee was a senior and Harrington was a sophomore promoted to varsity for the playoffs. Agee found himself constantly competing on the court with Harrington, who eventually followed behind Agee at Mineral Area College.
"We battled on the court over who was going to be the man at Mineral Area. We always went at it," Agee said, recalling a game where Harrington dropped 34 points in the second half against Three Rivers Community College.
Agee said he was grateful his former teammate was alive.
“I just wanted to look at him… just seeing him up and alive… Even though he wasn’t walking. It was priceless," Agee said.
The last-second victory epitomized the Marshall attitude, Agee said.
“That’s what Commandos do: we’re fighters,” Agee said with a polished confidence. “Things happen to us and we strap up our boots and get ready for what’s next.”