Student Receives $10k From Pizza Hut After Half Court Shot Contest Debacle

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jack Lavery makes a buzzer-beating halfcourt shot, but only after failing on his first attempt. Will he collect the contest prize money? (Published Sunday, Feb 16, 2014)

    A West Chester University freshman has been on a roller coaster ride. Jack Lavery, 18, made the shot of his life during a halftime basketball contest on Saturday. But, the half court shot he made was a second chance shot, and therefore West Chester University officials said he was not eligible to collect the $10,000 contest prize.

    It was a pretty disappointing blow for the Horsham native. "After all that celebration, they told me I'm not going to get it," said Lavery.

    Pizza Hut to the rescue.

    The restaurant chain stepped in today, tweeting directly at Lavery, "We know greatness when we see it." The restaurant offered him $10,000 in cash and free pizza for a year (no strings attached).

    "That felt awesome. It just felt like all the hoopla about not getting paid (didn't matter). I’m very humbled that Pizza Hut reached out to me and awarded me this prize," said Lavery with a self-described big smile on his face.

    Lavery was sitting at the barbershop when he saw the tweet. 

    Lavery epitomizes Pizza Hut's #GoForGreatness campaign. "Once we heard about it, it caught all of our attention. That was one that seemed a pretty remarkable feat with a disappointing ending for everybody," said Pizza Hutt spokesman Doug Terfehr. "These are moments that we can all appreciate that are better than an average day." 

    Lavery participated in a halftime contest at the West Chester-Shippensburg basketball game Sunday. The halftime ritual and home game contest calls for the contestant to make four shots in 25 seconds -- a layup, foul shot, 3-point shot and a half court shot. The person selected for the feat is done by a random gametime drawing.

    Lavery said he spent no time practicing and found out he was selected to compete during the game.

    Wearing black sweatpants, Lavery started off his series of shots with ease. He had no problem making the first three shots. When he attempted the half court shot, he missed. But then he rebounded and threw it back up from half court about a second before the buzzer and made it. The crowd erupted in cheers, as seen on the video. It was a fleeting moment of celebration for the freshman.

    The bad news came moments after the cheers. West Chester University officials told Lavery he won't take home the $10,000 prize because he didn't make the first half court shot attempt, details in the fine print in the contract he signed. Athletic director Edward Matejkovic said the rules state all four shots must be made the first time. 

    Bill Lavery, Jack's father, said the family felt "let down" and "frustrated" with the university because they made him believe he won after the shot. Bill told his son from the beginning that he'd match the $10,000 prize if he won. Despite the contest hiccup, the older Lavery said he will match Pizza Hut's donation and "keep putting his son through school." (Pictured at right, Bill, Jack and Kellie Lavery).

    Lavery has decided to donate $500 to Woody's Circle of Care. He has experience with the non-profit serving as a junior board member. The organization helps area families in need. Despite the fallout after making the miraculous half court shot, the freshman said he remained humbled and learned a lot.

    "I learned that it’s best to stay positive throughout the ups and downs and in the end it will always work its way out," he said.

    When Pizza Hut heard Lavery's favorite pizza is pepperoni, Terfehr said, "We've got plenty of that."


    Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.