Runner-up honors for Ganson in shootout

Amy Boldt
Aaron Ganson drains a shot from beyond the arc this season for the Leafs. Ganson is the son of Kyle and Michelle Ganson.

Although his senior basketball season for the Leafs didn’t end up as he hoped, one basketball dream did come true for Geneseo’s Aaron Ganson, a trip to the state three-point contest.

“It has always been a dream of mine,” said Ganson. “I have family down there, and I was born down there.”

This past weekend, Ganson captured second in the state at the Country Financial Three-Point Showdown in Peoria.

“You get more adrenaline running through you, and there are more than a couple hundred people watching you,” said Ganson. “It was quite exhilarating.”

In regionals, Ganson hit 11 shots both nights, followed by 13 in the first round of sectionals and 11 at the sectional championship. Ganson knocked down 10 in the supersectional to advance to state.

The preliminary round was held March 19 at Carver Arena in Peoria where Ganson  hit 10 shots from beyond the arc.

“It was a great moment (advancing to the finals),” said Ganson. “I was 5-for-10 in the first racks, and then I made all five on the last rack. That is a memory I won’t forget.”

Ganson was one of four to  move on to the final round for 3A on March 20. At the final buzzer, Ganson and Tyler Les of Peoria Notre Dame were tied with 10 baskets apiece. The duo went into a shootout where Les edged out Ganson, 6-5.

“(Getting second) is still a bittersweet moment, obviously, I am happy with second, but it stings getting that close and losing by one,” said Ganson. “I have always been a competitive guy. I was really happy to have family down there, and my friends were watching it on TV.”

While Ganson had his shootout dream come true, there was a point early on in his high school career where he wondered if he would ever play sports again.

During his freshman year, Ganson had surgery to correct  an issue with his lung called spontaneous pneumothorax.

“I had holes in the top of my lung that would pop, and air would leak out,” said Ganson. “It felt like a massive heart attack. They cut out that part of the lung, and I have 12 titanium staples in it.

“I missed pretty much my whole freshman baseball season and was unable to do summer football workouts. I sat at home, and that is really when I picked up piano which helped me relieve stress.”

Ganson slowly worked his way back and began weight lifting, but then injury struck again in his sophomore year.

Ganson was forced to wear a back brace for a broken back.

“My back was probably my scariest injury, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to play sports ever again,” said Ganson. “I had nightmares about it.”

Due to his back injury, Ganson was unable to play football even though it was his goal to start at quarterback for the Green?Machine.

“Not being able to play was not easy to swallow,” said Ganson. “I thank my family and friends for really supporting me and helping out. God really helped me through it, and I don’t know how I would have gotten through it on my own. As much as I love football, basketball was the bigger dream.”

To get ready to play basketball again took a lot of hard work, a lot of determination, and the desire to shoot extra free throws even when tired, said Ganson.

“I was not going to let anything stop me from playing the sport I love,” said Ganson. “I felt pain a couple of times, but I?viewed myself as a leader, and I really wanted to show my teammates I was there for them.”

Next year, Ganson will attend Bradley University in Peoria to pursue a degree in engineering.

Ganson stated the biggest thing these experiences over the last four years have taught him is  to never give up.

“As dark as the situation may seem, if you keep striving for your goals you can achieve a whole lot of things,” he said.

Geneseo has only had one winner of the three-point showdown and that was Laura Miller in 1998. Miller won the Class AA title, along with Queen of the Hill honors. She shot 10 three-pointers to advance to the finals and then hit 9-out-of-10  in the tiebreaker to win the Queen of the Hill.

Other Geneseo players who have competed in the showdown finals were Mike Radue, Ky VanKerrebroeck and Maggie Lamb.