When Fran Belibi began playing basketball during her freshman year at Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School, she wasn’t aware that women almost never dunk. That naïveté served her well. During a January 2017 game against Grand Junction High School, the then sophomore became the first female to throw down in a Colorado high school game. After the contest, which Regis won, the dunk became a viral sensation, with many designating Belibi as the future of women’s basketball. (Her hype went supernova this month, when on January 12 the 6-1 senior became the first high schooler in the country to catch and finish an alley-oop during a game). Before Belibi heads off to Stanford later this year, those who were there take a look back the phenom’s first historic slam.

Mackenzie Younkersophomore guard for the Grand Junction Tigers: It was during the first quarter. They were pressing us, and I got the ball in the corner. I freaked out because that is not where the ball is supposed to be. I threw it toward the middle of the court, and Fran stole the pass.

Carl Mattei, head coach for the Regis Jesuit Raiders: The ball goes to the wing, and Fran went racing over there. Honestly, it wasn’t even her responsibility, which is kind of comical. But she got the steal, and next thing you know she takes off.

Fran Belibi: I went up for it, and it wasn’t even until I got it in [the hoop] that I realized, Oh, wow, you just went for a dunk in a game.

Bill Larkin, head referee: Before the coach called timeout, I was getting ready to call a technical foul because the girls on the [Regis Jesuit] bench ran onto the floor.

Mattei: I was just trying to settle them down. We were still in the game, and I said, “That’s great—it’s just two points, guys. Let’s keep going.”

Sam Provenza, head coach for the Tigers: The timeout lasted forever. I finally got my kids’ attention, and I said, “Just remember, it is only worth two points and not 200.”

Belibi: My parents were out of town, so they didn’t even see it. I got back home and I called my mom and told her I just dunked. She didn’t believe me.

Jada Moore, freshman guard for the Raiders: Overnight we watched it go viral. We were all texting in our group chat. Fran doesn’t have any social media, and we were telling her how many people were posting it.

Belibi: I realized it was a really big deal when it made the top 10 plays on ESPN that night. I remember watching and John Wall [a guard for the Washington Wizards] had this great no-look pass. I didn’t think I would beat that. Then I saw myself fly across the screen.

Mattei: I thought she would be number six or five on SportsCenter. She was freaking number one. My phone was blowing up. It was to the point that by one in the morning I had to turn my phone off.

Belibi: A week or so after the game, we were talking about Mary Shelley in AP World History. My teacher said, “She wrote a book at 15. What have you guys done?” I said, “Well, I was on ESPN last week.”

Sidney Weigand, sophomore forward for the Raiders: I told everyone for such a long time after that it was the best moment of my life—even though it had nothing to do with me.

BONUS: Fran Belibi’s history making alley-oop from January 12, 2019:

This article was originally published in 5280 February 2019.
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of 5280.com and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.