[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_color=”” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” center_content=”no” last=”no” min_height=”” hover_type=”none” link=””][fusion_text]

In the span of a mere three seconds on Sunday night, the players from Notre Dame and Mississippi State were instantaneously flung to the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum — and the expanse between the two points was as vast as the distance from South Bend to Starkville. 

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container][fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible” margin_top=”5px” margin_bottom=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none” last=”no” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all”][fusion_separator style_type=”none” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=”” /][fusion_text]

For the Irish, it was delirium. For the Bulldogs, it was devastation. And for everyone who witnessed the game, it was the epitome of March Madness, even on the first day of April. 

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container][fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none” last=”no” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all”][fusion_separator style_type=”none” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=”” /][fusion_text]

When Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale connected on her off-balance, high-arching, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner to send the Irish to an improbable 61-58 victory over Mississippi State in the NCAA national championship game, it resulted in the kinds of raw emotion that is reserved for this time of year. 

While the Notre Dame players celebrated with hugs and high-fives, many of the Mississippi State players used the bottom half of their jerseys to wipe away tears as they walked to the locker room. 

Ogunbowale, naturally, was the star of the postgame pomp and circumstance. She was a two-time hero for the Irish this weekend, hitting the decisive shot in Notre Dame’s win over UConn in Friday night’s Final Four matchup before taking things to an even higher level with the absurd shot against Mississippi State.

Ogunbowale didn’t really have an explanation for her miraculous jumper, other than to say that she routinely practices last-second shots with her teammates. And thus, when the moment arrived on Sunday …  

“It just felt right,” Ogunbowale said in a postgame interview with ESPN. 

But let’s be honest. Did anyone — outside of the Notre Dame program — really think the Irish would be the last team standing? Truth is, the Irish were barely standing at all. They’d lost four players to ACL injuries this season, and spent most of the season with a very thin bench. 

Ultimately, though, Notre Dame refused to let all the crutches be a crutch. The Irish pressed on through the injuries and found themselves in the middle of a confetti shower on Sunday night. 

“(This team) really dug deep, and showed that Fighting Irish spirit,” head coach Muffet McGraw told ESPN immediately after the game. “They just would not be denied. Such resilience and perseverance.”

Notre Dame demonstrated those characteristics, in spades, on Sunday night. 

The Irish trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, and they were behind 58-53 with 1:57 remaining after a 3-pointer by Mississippi State’s Roshunda Johnson. 

But Notre Dame ended the game on an 8-0 run, capped by Ogunbowale’s 3-pointer. She finished with 18 points, all but two of which came in the second half. 

On the decisive play, Ogunbowale didn’t have her feet set. She didn’t have her shoulders square. And she had a defender’s hand squarely in her face. 

Basically, Ogunbowale found herself in a jump-shooter’s nightmare. And yet, she somehow transformed that situation into the dreamiest moment of her career — and one of the most legendary moments in the history of women’s college basketball. 

Her rainbow 3-pointer led to a pot of gold for the Irish — (fitting, right?) — and enabled Notre Dame to claim the national title for the first time since 2001.

“We did so many things wrong in the first half,” McGraw said in the televised interview. “But we came out with a new belief, and a new motivation (in the second half).”

The remarkable victory — which was propelled by a team-high 19 points from Jessica Shepard and nine rebounds from Kathryn Westbeld — capped off an incredible weekend of basketball in Columbus. 

“Dare I say, (this was) the greatest Final Four in history?” said play-by-play announcer Adam Amin. 

Beyond the semifinals, the entire tournament might go down as the best ever. It started with a handful of head-turning upsets in the first three rounds, and then ended with a Final Four that dripped with intensity. Every basket seemed monumental, every play seemed pivotal. 

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma talked about the tournament’s challenges after his team got “Ogunbowale’d” in the semifinals. 

“It’s very, very difficult,” he said about trying to work through the March Madness maze. “There are no bad teams. There’s no bad players. You can’t luck into a national championship. You have to play great.”

And sometimes even that isn’t enough. 

Mississippi State had plenty of great moments Sunday night — including an 18-point, 17-rebound effort from junior Tearia McCowan and a game-high 21 points from senior star Victoria Vivians — but came up one play of short of cutting down the nets. 

In the realm of college basketball, the line between winning and losing is incredibly thin. But the range of emotions after the game couldn’t possibly be wider. 

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Previous articleThe Mid-Majors Can Hang With the Big Boys (And Girls)
Next articleWhat the hell Cleveland Browns
Avatar
Senior Writer/Columnist for The Ball Out: David Dawson is the Communications Special for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, and is a freelance sports writer. A veteran of the newspaper business, Dawson spent 15 years at the Rome News-Tribune in Rome, Ga., including 10 years as a sports writer and five years as sports editor. He has also worked at Vanderbilt University, where he served as the sports information director for the women’s basketball team and the cross country teams, along with being the editor of the school’s athletic magazine, Commodore Nation. During his time in Rome, Dawson spent five seasons as the beat writer for the Class A Rome Braves. He has been published in Baseball America, Chop Talk and has recently covered high school sports for the Tennessean and the Williamson County Herald. Dawson lives in Nashville with his wife, April, and their two young sons.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here