March 15, 2006 - It took everything he had for David Vanderwerf to step out onto the court in front of thousands of people Feb. 25 at Glendale Arena for the Class 4A 3-point shooting contest.
Less than three minutes and 15 shots later, relentless nerves had disappeared, replaced instead by the icy-coldness of a now hardened sharpshooter.
A junior guard for Ironwood Ridge High School's boys basketball team, Vanderwerf won the annual Grand Canyon 3-point Shootout for the Class 4A-1 with a last second shot to clinch the Oro Valley school's first such championship.
"I was kind of nervous, (I) kind of didn't want to go but when I won I was pretty excited," said Vanderwerf. "I had to, I couldn't let my team down."
Five contestants, one from each of the Class 4A's five regions, were given five shots each from three racks located at the both wings and the top of the 3-point arc. Vanderwerf shot last of the five players and needed more than eight points to snap the tie at the top -players are awarded one point per made shot and two points if they make the final shot in rack, known as the money ball.
With only the money ball remaining, the clock near zero and eight points already in the bank, Vanderwerf stroked the money ball from the wing to win the event over Carlos Moro of Pinnacle High School and Matt Dickman of Cienega High School.
"I didn't even know my score," said Vanderwerf of the frenzy of shots. "I was just shooting, just trying to get as many as I can."
He doesn't shoot much but when the ball leaves Vanderwerf's hands chances are it will find the bottom of the net. This season Vanderwerf estimates that he hit on roughly 40 percent of his 3-point tries, but didn't have enough attempts to qualify him for any scoring titles.
In winning the shootout, Vanderwerf became the first Ironwood Ridge player to win the event. Junior teammate Trent Anderson came close, finishing runner up twice in the last two years.
Anderson, however, was one of Vanderwerf's first victims when the team held it's initial shootout to determine who would advance to the regional contest. Vanderwerff held off teammates Anderson and Ethan Held with a overtime win to advance to the regional tourney held Feb. 6 at Marana High School.
At the regional tourney, Vanderwerf hit his first nine shots for the win, despite missing every shot on the final rack. By winning, the junior became the fourth straight Nighthawk to win the Sonoran Region Shootout. Past winners included Dylan Johnson in 2003, and Anderson in 2004 and 2005.
On the day before the state finals, Vanderwerf and a coach took over the gym and practiced mock shootouts. That day he was on, hitting 16 out of 18 points several times. By the time he reached the finals the next day, however, his nerves almost took control.
"The first warm up round I think I only made two shots in one minute," he said. "Then I started feeling it a little bit toward the top of the key."
Heat up he did and the top of the key is where he netted the majority of his points for the state title.
As a team, Ironwood Ridge was bumped out of the state playoffs in the second round by eventual champs Apollo High School. Vanderwerf will spend the off-season playing for the Nighthawks summer league team. Next year, 4A Sonoran opponents may want to limit the amount of shots Vanderwerf takes against them, he now has a taste for the money ball.