As precious seconds ticked off the clock, the crowd took up a loud chant.
“We want Cole. We want Cole.”
Game in hand, Auburn Mountainview boys basketball coach Thomas Ostrander brought in an unsuspecting Cole Buchanan with about 27 seconds to play in the Lions’ regular-season boys basketball finale against Enumclaw on Friday, Senior Night.
The team manager, a beloved and popular student at school, finally got his chance to play with his friends on the court.
“It felt good,” said a surprised Cole, 19, a highly functioning autistic senior who loves his teammates, his classes and sports. “It always feels good to get the chance to play in the game.”
When it didn’t appear Cole would get a chance to shoot the ball, Enumclaw sophomore Kaden Anderson fouled Cole and sent him to the line for a pair of double-bonus free throws with a few seconds left in the game.
“The Enumclaw coach (Kellen Hall) made a classy move,” Ostrander said. “He looked over to me during the timeout and said they would let Cole catch the ball and foul him.”
“The coach (Kellen Hall) of the other team had figured it out,” said Cole’s father, Steve. “He talked to his boys and made sure they fouled Cole so he could get a couple of foul shots, which I felt was a nice move.”
Cole’s first free throw wasn’t close so Ostrander instructed him to move to the top of the key, where he usually shoots 3-pointers, and his next shot nearly made it, just rimming off the front iron after banking the ball off the backboard.
“I was kind of excited and kind of on the nervous side, too,” Cole said of his opportunity to score.
When the buzzer sounded, fans stormed the court, lifted Cole and took him on a memorable ride.
For all to see.
“It was one of those things. It makes you feel good to be a part of the community,” Steve said. “His teammates are incredibly, great kids. And Coach Ostrander has been real close to Cole. He has taken him under his wing.”
The plan was for Cole to suit up for the Lions’ Senior Night game, Ostrander said. He prepared for the game and dressed up for game day at school in a suit and bow tie.
“He got a scouting report delivered to him in class, and he was involved in all of our other pregame activities. This, in itself, was very special for Cole,” Ostrander said.
Cole ran out onto the court with the starting lineups.
“I was very clear with Cole that I wanted to get him into the game but couldn’t guarantee we would get him in because it all depended on how the game was going,” Ostrander explained. “When the game was close, I was really worried we wouldn’t be able to play him. Fortunately, we turned things around and got a good enough lead that I felt comfortable putting Cole in.”
Cole draws strength from his family, which includes his mother, Wendy, and younger brother, Shane. He thrives with the support of his coaches and teachers. He savors his friends and teammates, notably Ryan Lacey, Robbie Wilson, Tristan Miguel and Chandler Michalek, who have been together since elementary school.
“I’m sure they (his teammates) were pushing for it … just to give him a special memory,” Steve said of Cole’s emotional moment Friday.
“It was a very special moment for him, his parents, our team, and our school,” Ostrander said. “Cole means a lot to our team and has grown up with our group of seniors. He loves basketball, our team, and takes his manager position very seriously.”
Cole has overcame many health problems growing up. He had his first surgery when he was only 10 months old.
Despite the challenges, Cole has grown up to become a resilient and reliable young man.
“He always been a fighter, but he’s always done it with a smile on his face,” Steve said.
Son follows dad around at work. Steve is a commercial plumber, and Cole wants to learn the trade as his apprentice.
“That’s his aspiration,” Steve said.
All he needs is a shot, like Friday night in the Lions’ 60-52 win that punctuated the South Puget Sound League 3A title.
“It was really cool, one of those things where you restore your faith in humanity,” Steve said.
Cole won’t soon forget it.
“It felt good,” he said. “I didn’t expect that at all.”