Amari Johnson lived out her basketball dream on Saturday night.
The 5-foot, 10-inch Rider University standout converted off a sideline out-of-bounds pass as time expired to give the Broncs a 50-49 win at Monmouth in West Long Branch, New Jersey.
With the win, Rider (25-4 overall and 18-2 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) clinched a share of the MAAC regular-season championship and the top seed in the MAAC Championships for the first time in program history.
The Broncs led for the first 39 minutes and 59.4 seconds on Saturday, and by as many as 16 points, until the Hawks (8-21, 5-15) took their first lead of the game on Akilah Jennings' driving basket. Monmouth's players and coaches thought that basket had ended the game, but an officials' review put 0.5 seconds back on the clock.
Rider called timeout, which advanced the ball, to set up the game-winning play. Lexi Stover inbounded from the left of her team's bench and found Johnson cutting to the basket on the far side of the court. The pass hit Johnson in mid-air and the redshirt senior caught it and laid it in off the glass in one motion.
“I know this sounds corny, but we have a dream jar and, if you take out Amari's piece of paper in that dream jar, it says, 'win a game for my team at the buzzer.' And she just literally lived her dream." Rider head coach Lynn Milligan said after the game on the school’s website.
The dramatic, game-winning basket is already being billed by some as the "Hail Amari."
"We've been working so hard for this moment, so just to see that go in and just see that we are conference champions and what we've been working for all came true in that one moment. So it was just a surreal moment." Johnson said on the Rider website.
Johnson finished the game with eight points and nine rebounds. For the season, she’s averaging 11.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game for the NCAA Division I program. She’s started every Rider game, is averaging more than 34 minutes per contest and is second in the MAAC in rebounding.
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Rider will start MAAC Tournament action at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Atlantic City, when the Broncs will face the winner of Tuesday's first-round game between eighth-seeded Niagara and ninth-seeded Saint Peter's.
Johnson is in her second season at Rider after transferring from Rhode Island. She has twice been named the MAAC Player of the Week this season and was a preseason All-MAAC second-team pick.
She was also a second-team All-MAAC pick after the 2018-2019 season, earned the team’s defensive award last year and was selected to the MAAC All-Academic Team. She averaged 10 points and seven rebounds per game as a junior.
At Dallastown, she was a four-year letter winner who surpassed more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for her scholastic career. She was a second-team all-state performer and a York-Adams League Division I all-star.
Reach Steve Heiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.