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“I was able to frame the chaos that was unfolding in front of me”

ESPN Images photographer Phil Ellsworth recalls his greatest Final Four moment, capturing the finish of Villanova's 2016 championship victory over UNC

Tonight, the men’s 2020 NCAA Division I basketball national championship would have been decided. With sports on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Front Row revisits some classic Final Four moments as captured by ESPN Images photographers.

Today we celebrate the work of Phil Ellsworth. On April 4, 2016, in Houston’s NRG Stadium, Ellworth shot the action-packed finish of Villanova’s 77-74 championship game victory over North Carolina.

The atmosphere is depicted in the slideshow above.

Ellsworth writes:

My NCAA March Madness moment is an easy one.

I was fortunate enough to cover the Final Four championship game between the University of North Carolina and Villanova.

When UNC’s Marcus Paige hit an off-balance 3-pointer to tie the game at 74 with only six seconds on the clock, I was running scenarios through my head of what would happen next – and how I would manipulate three handheld cameras and three remote cameras.

Making preparations for camera choices and being prepared to trigger several remotes, I settled for a shorter focal length lens instead of what I typically use. When play resumed after a timeout with 4.3 seconds remaining, I framed the backcourt with the shot clock in the frame and waited for play to unfold.

When Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit the game-winning 3-point buzzer-beater, I held the trigger down on my remote cameras and my handheld camera.

I was able to frame the chaos that was unfolding in front of me.

It played out perfectly. I was just so happy that the celebration turned in my direction, making for the most memorable series of basketball photos of my career.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Sunday, ESPN Images’ Allen Kee revisited his Women’s Final Four moment.

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