Dream about the moments when the crowd goes silent.
Overhead, the scoreboard is paused at 6.2 seconds in bright red lights. It’s 53-51 Clear Lake.
Neither Clear Lake nor Algona are at home, they’ve met up at Garner-Hayfield-Ventura to play in the Class 3A Region II final.
The stands aren’t just filled with Lions and Bulldogs fans. The Bishop Garrigan Golden Bears line the top of the stands in their regular clothes, oh my. The West Hancock Eagles are there, too.
For most of the game, you can barely hear yourself think. Every basket counts, especially when it changes the lead, or ties it up 25-25 at the halftime buzzer.
Junior Nicole Schmidt lobs in free throws to pull Algona within striking distance 47-45. Sophomore Molly McCauley’s layup makes it 47-47, but sophomore Sara Faber immediately glides down the paint to put the Lions ahead 49-47.
Sophomore Lexi Fasbender adds two from the line to extend the lead 51-47 with 59 seconds left. Sophomore Kameryn Etherington drives for a layup, then makes two free throws to tie it up 51-51 with 48 seconds left.
After a back-and-forth battle down the court, sophomore Sara Faber lays one in for a 53-51 lead.
Algona attempts a 3 on the next possession, but senior Chloe Mueller comes up with the rebound and drives down court. She’s fouled in the process and the clock stops.
There’s 6.2 seconds left and a deafening silence permeates the gym air.
There’s a risk here. If Mueller misses both free throws, Algona has the chance to tie it up on a two or win the game on a three. If she makes both, there’s little doubt the Lions will be holding the state banner in 6.2 seconds.
“Ever since freshman year, I’ve been thinking about having that moment,” Mueller said. “Imagining it every year, so when I got up there I just took a deep breath and I actually said a quick prayer to God to just give me the ability. I needed to do it for my team...and I’m not a big scorer.”
Mueller dribbles the ball then bends her knees. Her deep breath is visible by the up and down motion of her shoulders. She’s nervous.
But that first ball finds its way in, and the silence shatters for just a moment.
She goes through the same motion, and tips the rim on the second.
Algona drives down court, but before anyone can shoot, Faber’s snatched it away.
Clear Lake is going to state for the third year in a row, 54-51.
“She [Mueller] was great, you know, when you have seniors in your program, you know you’re going to win these close ones,” Clear Lake head coach Bart Smith said. “Our seniors... they’ve been in this position before, they know how to just get the win and move on.”
Mueller can’t stop smiling. She’s taking pictures with her family and friends, and it’s not like this feeling is new, either. But it’s all hers.
“It was my chance to make a big shot for the team,” Mueller said. “This is my third time to go to state in four years. I’ve kind of learned my role, I’m more of the defensive player not the offensive player, I try my best to stop their good player and I like to take that role.”
Mueller provides stability on defense, something that goes unnoticed to the typical fan’s eye. On paper, she has 56 steals and 72 assists this season, the second-most on the team.
It was the similar on the volleyball court as the starting libero, Mueller topped the stats with 318 digs this year. But the libero doesn’t get to make a free throw in front of state-bound crowd.
Mueller bounces around for more pictures, relishing that moment. She hopes there’s more to come at the tournament.
But for now, it’s the moment she’s been dreaming of.