Chase Praeger steps to the line with one second on the clock and his team down by two points. Spectators are screaming for him to miss. Praeger knows the fate of his team rests on his shoulders.
The atmosphere is boisterous in what has become one of the biggest youth basketball rivalries in North Carolina. Two of the best fifth-grade teams in the state, and maybe in the entire country, have traded baskets in the most intense meeting yet.
Players on the team come from all over the Charlotte area, including south and southwest Charlotte, Harrisburg, the university area, Cornelius, Denver and Belmont.
Praeger, who is a student at Cornelius Elementary School and the starting point guard for the QCAA Force fifth-grade Division One team, is ready for the moment.
He calmly makes the two free throws and forces overtime.
The Force is playing the Greensboro Galaxy, a team that had been on a 35-game win streak against in-state teams and had won the Division One N.C. Amateur Athletic Union title in 2008 and 2009.
The Force snapped the Galaxy's in-state win streak last year and has beaten the Galaxy three straight times, the only team in the state to do so in the last few years.
"We felt confident coming in, we had beat them a few times in a row but knew anything could happen," head coach Mike Praeger said. The overtime was back and forth.
The Force, behind the strong defense of Darian Bell, rebounding of Elijah Brown and John Crump's clutch free-throw shooting, still trailed by two points with under 20 seconds to play.
Langston "Trey" Wertz III, the team's leading scorer and the one Praeger was trying to get the ball to as regulation wound down, caught the ball on the wing, saw his defender fall down and immediately took one dribble-step back, rose for a 3-pointer and the lead.
"Trey hit that shot with 19 seconds to go," Praeger said. "He was in transition and we were down by two at the time. He sank it, and we encourage Trey to shoot when he has a look like that."
Wertz, who won a national 3-point title last year, did not hesitate when he saw his defender fall and the Force hung on for a 42-40 win, their fourth straight against the Galaxy, an AAU state title and an automatic trip to the National AAU tournament July 17 in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
"I had a pretty terrible shooting game to that point but was able to come through in the end in crunch time," Wertz, a student at South Charlotte Elementary said.
As a 9-year-old, he had calmly sank two free throws to cement the national championship for the Force and hit a driving runner to win the state title for the 10-year-old team, but this one ranked high on his list of big shots.
"I usually want the ball in late game situations, but I am willing to give it up if other people have better matchups," Wertz said.
Winning this year's state title is the favorite of coach Praeger because everyone played together and contributed.
"When people come see our team play for the first time, they can't believe that they are only in the fifth grade. The skill level of our kids for the age is very high," Praeger said.
"The caliber of players we have, all 10 of our players play significant minutes. Each one of them could start on any other team, but they choose to play together and reach a common goal."
Besides Wertz, Praeger, Bell, Crump and Brown, the Force is made up of Coleson Leach, Triston Miller, Jerald Blue, Jalen Bynum and Marcus Henderson.
The Force players will remember this win for the way they worked as team.
"Of all the accomplishments, this meant the most," Chase Praeger said. "It was hard because we were expected to win and had a lot of pressure on us. We stuck together and did it."