For 17-year-old Rocky Elardo, a game-winning shot capped off a years-long battle with cancer.
Rocky, a high school senior and member of the girls varsity basketball team at Heritage High School in Leesburg, Virginia, made the game-winning buzzer beater that clinched the win for her team against Rock Ridge High School.
“I was actually very stressed out,” Rocky told “Good Morning America,” adding that she didn’t even want to shoot the ball initially. She finally did when her teammate urged her on.
Rocky stood at the three-point line for the shot and the second she let the ball go, she could feel it was a winner.
“Sometimes when you shoot the ball, the way it comes off your fingers, you can feel it, like it just felt right,” Rocky said.
The crowd erupted into cheers and Rocky said all of it felt like a “serotonin rush.”
The emotional moment was captured on camera and Rocky’s assistant coach, Ariel McKinney, said it was especially sweet for Rocky, who was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in 2019.
“Despite all the treatment and all the doctor's appointments and no matter how bad she's felt on any given day, she has been at every practice in the last four years that she can physically be at, in every game with a positive outlook, not just on the game but on life,” McKinney said, calling the senior a “rock” the entire team leans on.
Ewing sarcoma is a type of tumor that affects the bones or the body’s soft tissues, according to the National Cancer Institute.
These tumors can be cancerous and are often diagnosed after a biopsy. Although extremely rare, Ewing sarcoma most often affects adolescents and young adults in their 20s.
Throughout her high school years, Rocky said she’s had to receive numerous treatments, which have limited her participation on the basketball team, even though she’s been a member for the last four years.
“I did chemo my freshman and sophomore year, and then radiation my junior year and then I've just gotten surgeries my freshman and senior year to remove cancer,” Rocky said.
Doctors told Rocky she had “no evidence of disease” so she was able to play on Jan. 27, when she made the game-winning shot.
McKinney, who has known Rocky for the past four years, said the senior deserved all the spotlight that day.
“She's just an amazing human being that has inspired all of us and in every way possible,” McKinney said.