Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January 21, 1980: Virginia Tech Rolls To Victory Thanks To "The Henson Heave"

On January 21, 1980, Virginia Tech forward Les Henson stunned the crowd in Florida when he launched a full court desperation shot as the buzzer sounded that landed in the basket and gave his Hokies a 79-77 victory over the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee. The shot was first estimated a to be a 93 footer but after it was reexamined it would go into the record books as a shot from 89 feet and 3 inches away, it was enough to earn Henson a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The record has since been surpassed but those that follow the Virginia Tech basketball program will always remember the shot that became known as "The Henson Heave."

The game was a solid matchup of 10 game winners and it was a well fought battle as the final score states. With the two teams fighting for the lead and time winding down the score stood tied at 77-77. It looked like the Seminoles were going to grab the victory when Pernell Tookes drove the ball down the floor with what looked to be a game winner in his grasp. Tookes fired a jumper from the free throw line that rang off the rim and into the hands of Henson who heaved the ball with his right hand at the last second to win the ball game. Something else about the shot that was simply remarkable was Henson was a lefty and throwing with his right hand was a rarity to say the least.

Every fan in attendance as well as both benches were shocked as they watched the Virginia Tech bench storm the floor in celebration. The shot was in question at first as the announcers speculated that Henson had stepped out of bounds, however, it stood and Virginia Tech would leave victorious.

The 6 foot 6 forward was stunned just as much as anyone as he had helped his team to victory with a good ole buzzer beater. In postgame interviews he said "At first I thought it was going to hit the lights, but it just kept going and going." When it swished through the basket a stunned Henson  turned to a Florida State cheerleader and asked her if she could believe what she just saw. Henson's coach Charlie Moir said  "Just incredible. I'll probably never see a shot like that again." The coach went onto say "You go out and practice that shot for the next 12 months and you'll never make it." An equally stunned Joe Williams, who was the head coach of Florida State at the time, called it the most incredible thing he had ever seen. Williams would say "Henson hitting that miracle shot is like a golfer winning a tournament with a 100 foot putt over three mounds and two gullies."

Virginia Tech would go onto post a 21-8 record and land a spot in the NCAA tournament where they fell in the second round to Indiana. When they sat around and reflected on the season "The Henson Heave" was surely a topic of conversation as it was one of if not the most thrilling victory of the year for that squad out of Virginia.

Watch Henson's historic shot here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC2Qbxkr2_s


  1. Hokies play at FSU tonight and everytime they play at FSU I think of this shot. Thank you for posting

    1. You're welcome. I enjoyed digging into it. Thanks for the comment.