By Zach Smart
Rewind the clock to 12 months ago.
South Western guard Mike Duffy took one dribble, calmly inhaled, and briefly scanned the rim before he launched the second of two free throws at jam-packed Red Lion High.
This was during the Mustangs' dramatic 51-48 win over York Suburban in the 2012 YAIAA boys' basketball semifinal.
Then a junior, it was Duffy's turn to navigate Pennsylvania's searing postseason pressure cooker.
Before the ball left Duffy's fingertips, a rowdy York Suburban fan decked in face paint erupted.
"You will not make this shot!"
The unruly fan screamed, alarming every functioning ear drum in the gym.
As soon as the ball splashed through the nylon, Duffy shifted his gaze towards the boisterous fan.
Duffy gave the fan a cold, hard stare down.
The 5-foot-10 guard then slapped the hardwood with an apparent burst of adrenaline. He dropped down into a defensive stance. He guarded the ball with the same fervor that a hawk guards its fresh kill.
"Not happening tonight!" Duffy screamed, to nobody in particular.
The scene was symbolic of Mike Duffy, the competitor.
Duffy's high-octane style is predicated on aggressive slashes, pull-up jumpers, set three-pointers, and pesky defense.
The Mustang senior combination guard's hyper-competitive nature, however, adds an immeasurable intangible.
Where does Duffy, known in local basketball circles as "Hit Man" get his competitive juice from?
"I've always been competitive with everything," explained Duffy, a four-year starter who eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone during South Western's 63-61 walloping of Spring Grove last month.
"I always looked up to guys like J.J. Redick and Allen Iverson. I saw how they wore their emotions on their sleeve and played every game as if it were the last. I just try to do the same."
Duffy is the guard who revs up the South Western fan base after burying a deep pull-up jumper. He infuses Nate Brodbeck's high-low offense with electric displays of dribbling.
Duffy's game has spearheaded South Western. He dropped a season-best 33 points to propel the Mustangs to a 63-58 win over Central York last week.
During a knot-tight 52-47 win over Dallastown, Duffy poured in 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Brodbeck, who preaches defensive pressure with an iron fist, said his team feeds off the adrenaline which courses through his high-horsepower guard's veins.
Duffy said he doesn't mind talking a little trash or answering the trash talk, either.
"Talking trash is the biggest mistake you can make when playing against Mike Duffy," explained Andre Marshall, the former New Oxford guard/forward who now plays at Albright College.
"The more you talk trash to him, the more he's going to come after you and the more you're going to feel that intensity. The more you try and instigate with him, the more he's going to try and shut you down and score on you."
In since-graduated Rafe Sanders, Duffy's former teammate and three-point marksman at South Western, Marshall's words resonated.
"On the court, his intensity always elevates his game and spreads to the rest of the team," Sanders said.
"We always say that Mike is the kid you love to have on your team but if you're on the other team, there is nobody that you hate more."
Duffy said he would like to prolong his basketball career. He rattled off Albright, York College, and Delaware Valley as potential NCAA hoops destinations.
"I'm getting interest for football as well," said Duffy, who remains undecided.
Parker Bean, a high-scoring 6-foot-6 center, has been with Duffy every step of the way.
The tandem facilitates South Western's high-low game. When teams overplay Duffy or combo guard Scotty Hess, it helps them whiz passes down low to Bean.
Bean and Duffy have been playing together since the fourth grade.
"Parker and I have always had good chemistry and we push each other to be the best every day," Duffy said.
How did Duffy earn the nickname, "Hit Man?"
"I'm really not sure," said Duffy with laughter.
"There's nothing I love more than when other players try and trash talk him. I just watch and smile because the next time Duffy touches the ball, the guy that trash talked him is basically a dead man. That's why we call him, "Hit Man."