There are less than 10 seconds left on the clock. The Bruins are three points from sending the Ohio Valley Conference championship game into overtime.
Three feet from the 3-point line, the shot goes up. UT Martin’s 6-foot-2 defender extends her arms to block the shot but fails.
The ball falls through the net to tie the game with just 4 seconds left.
With that one shot, Darby Maggard went from being a great 3-point shooter to a Belmont legend.
“It was amazing. As a kid, you dream about that stuff, you dream about hitting a 5, 4, 3, 2,1,” said Maggard.
Maggard stands at only 5 feet 5 inches tall, but she hasn’t let that stop her from becoming one of the nation’s deadliest 3-point shooters.
In the 2017-2018 season, she was ranked 11th in the nation for 3-point field goals attempted. She also ranked 12th in 3-point field goals made and 13th in 3-point field goals per game, according to the NCAA website.
“I’m a 3-point shooter. That’s what I do,” she said.
The Belmont senior is a talented shooter, but that’s largely because of the hard work she puts in every day, Maggard’s teammates and coaches said.
“She brings her A-game every day,” said senior teammate Jenny Roy. “It’s something that’s been valuable to our team. And she’s a humble spirit and also confident. That’s something you need.”
But Maggard’s success isn’t just about the physical work she puts in. Her mental toughness has allowed her to continue to fight even when doubt fills her head.
“There were times when I would just kind of be like, ‘Well I’m so little, I’m so small and I love to play the game of basketball,’” Maggard said. “Those two things kind of acted in opposition to each other.”
Maggard’s mother, who was a high school basketball coach, was instrumental in helping her overcome those feelings, she said.
“It’s not about your height, it’s not about the body that you’ve been given, it’s about the heart and the passion and the love that you have for the game. Those were things she taught me a really young age that helped me overcome those kind of battles that you have in your head about inadequacy,” Maggard said.
From a young age, Maggard spent every second she could with her mother and the team she coached.
“I followed her everywhere. To the gym, to scout, to early morning lifts with her team – I was just kind of in the car going with. And I loved it. I loved every bit of the practices, the games, everything about basketball. It just makes me feel alive,” she said.
Maggard became one of the top high school players in Indiana while playing at Fort Wayne Canterbury High School. During her senior year, she was named Indiana Miss Basketball runner-up, was nominated for McDonald’s All-American game and played on the Indiana All-Star team.
Going into college, Maggard was one of the top recruits in the nation and was recruited by a number of Power Five conference schools.
Bart Brooks, Belmont’s current women’s basketball head coach, knew about Maggard’s skill and passion long before he took the head coaching job at Belmont in 2017.
He first got to know her when he was an assistant coach at DePaul University and recruited her.
Brooks realized Maggard was different from most recruits when she called him to say she was visiting his home state of Wyoming, he said.
“Most recruits, when you recruit, they talk about themselves and they don’t take a lot of time to learn about the coaches or the people talking to them. Darby was the exception,” said Brooks. “She took the time and genuine investment in the people that she dealt within the recruiting process to get to know them. For her to remember I was from Wyoming and to pick up the phone and call me – that made a lasting impression on me.”
In the end, Maggard committed to Belmont to play under former head coach Cameron Newbauer. The Bruins won the OVC Championship during each of Maggard’s three seasons at Belmont.
During the historic 2017-2018 season — when the Bruins went undefeated in the conference and were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in program history — Maggard was surrounded by veteran talent such as Sally McCabe, Sierra Jones and Kylie Smith.
This year, all eyes will be on Maggard.
The accolades have already started to come in, as she was named the 2018-2019 OVC Preseason Player of the Year.
This means expectations are higher than ever, even before the first game of the season.
But her teammates insist fans will see the same high-scoring Darby Maggard they saw last season, in spite of the increased pressure .
“Darby is the type of person that is never satisfied. So, what you saw last year, that’s a stepping stone for Darby. That’s not an end goal for Darby,” said Paris Lawson, Maggard’s teammate and roommate. “I’ve never seen anybody who works so hard in my life.”
Maggard’s drive pushes her teammates to want to be the best players they can be, Lawson said.
“I wasn’t a gym rat when I came to college. And now that I’ve roomed with Darby for four years, I’m like, ‘I better get in the gym today. I better go work on my game, because I know Darby’s working,’” said Lawson.
As a senior and a captain, Maggard will have to step up as a leader in new ways during the 2018-2019 season.
“The biggest growth I’ve noticed specifically is the way she leads, and it’s been amazing. She talks, and people listen. She has that respect, and she cares about everyone on and off the court,” said teammate and fellow senior Maura Muensterman. “That makes it so much easier to want to listen and want to follow her.”
Maggard’s love for the game has made it fun for her team and coaches to work with her, said assistant coach Amy Malo.
“She’s such a passionate young lady. That just drives her to get better, and to lead people and to work on her own craft,” Malo said. “It’s fun to watch, and passion can be contagious, which I think is great for our team.”
All the work and dedication Maggard has put in during this offseason is directed toward one end goal — winning a fourth OVC tournament.
“I feel like we have a clean slate,” Maggard said. “If you take care of coming in every single day working hard, controlling what you can control, then the results are ultimately going to take care of themselves.”
This article written by Steven Boero. Video produced and edited by Cole Abshier and filmed by Cole Abshier, Abigail Bowen and Jordan Shatto. Reporting by Steven Boero.