While the thrill of helping her team to a state championship was still sinking in, the next thrill was about to kick in.
That’s when Nicole Avila-Ambrosi’s coach told her -- when the Millard North girls basketball team got back to the school on Saturday night -- that she had made an appearance on ESPN.
The junior guard scored 13 points against Lincoln Southwest in the Class A state championship game. Two of those points came on an acrobatic shot that wowed the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd and later landed on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays.
“Coach (David) Diehl, he told me,” Avila-Ambrosi said. “I was like, 'Oh, wow, that’s cool.' I didn’t realize how big of a thing it was. It didn’t really hit me until a couple days later. Then I was like, 'Wow, that’s an international channel and other countries can even see that.' Now I understand how crazy it is.”
The text messages poured in, and Avila-Ambrosi noticed an increase in followers on her social media accounts.
Describing Avila-Ambrosi’s circus layup here does it no justice. You have to see the video evidence.
The junior got a second-quarter outlet pass in transition from teammate Elle Danley Saturday, and had her eyes on a layup.
Avila-Ambrosi could feel a Southwest defender on her left hip. As she left her feet, the 5-foot-8 guard spun around and, while in the air and with her back to the basket, flipped the ball up with her right hand. The shot went in and Avila-Ambrosi completed a 360-degree spin before coming back down on her feet. She also was fouled on the play.
“I knew the ref would call a shooting foul because I was driving into her and so instead of only getting just a shooting foul, I was hoping for an one-and-one,” Avila-Ambrosi said. “I knew if I spun to my inside, it would be open, so I gave it a shot and then let the ball go and (it went in).”
Lauren West, Avila-Ambrosi’s teammate, said after Millard North's 62-52 win against Southwest, "That’s Nicole for you." And Diehl said there's an acrobatic aspect to Avila-Ambrosi's skill set.
Recently, Avila-Ambrosi was shooting shots behind her back in practice.
“I always try to push my boundaries, so I like to see what my body can do, or what moves I can invent,” Avila-Ambrosi said. "I’m always like, 'OK, what can I invent today?' I always like to test the waters and see what I can do."
There’s more to Avila-Ambrosi’s arsenal than trick shots. She can knock down threes and is one of the best slashers in Class A. She has offers from Omaha and California Baptist, and is receiving interest from Cornell, Drake, UT-San Antonio and South Dakota.
For Avila-Ambrosi, her introduction to an ESPN audience goes beyond getting on television.
“I’m super-pumped to represent my team, my high school and also girls basketball in general,” she said. “I feel like girls basketball doesn’t really get as much recognition as it should be getting because when I open up ESPN Top 10, it’s always these crazy NFL plays, or boys basketball or hockey.
“I am super proud too that I can represent those things in that way.”