The Ending

Yesterday, I had a chance to witness a great finish to a basketball game.  No, it wasn’t the finish to the Maui Classic where Gonzaga beat Duke in a thriller. Gonzaga is my son’s Sam favorite NCAA I team, next to Missouri.  

If you had guessed a game in Hawaii, you would have  been partly correct.  I’m in our 50th state running one of my basketball events and had a game with a great ending.

A team that often plays in my events is Chaminade University women’s basketball team.  Chaminade is a private school in Honolulu that plays in NCAA II. Their men’s team had become a household name in basketball lore for what happened on December 23, 1982.

Chaminade was an NAIA and a very good basketball team, although they weren’t ranked.  The Silverswords had only been in existence for eight years.  They agreed to play the University of Virginia in Honolulu who were on their way back from a tournament in Toyoko, Japan.

Virginia was the number one ranked team in the nation.  They were led by three-time Player of the Year, Ralph Sampson, the best center in the country. Despite the obvious miss-match, it was a trap for the visitors.  

Virginia had to be a tired team experiencing serious jet lag as they suited up for that game.  Their thoughts had to be of home and Christmas, only two days away.  Chaminade was no slouch.  They had beaten the University of Hawaii already that season.

The score was tied at half, 43 – 43, but Virginia ran out of gas in the second half. The final score was 77–72.  Most people call it the greatest upset in college basketball history.  That game led to the creation of the Maui Classic, a popular event that just saw the Gonzaga – Duke game.

The Chaminade men’s team plays in the Maui Classic every odd number calendar year with seven NCAA I teams.  ESPN covers all the games that are played on the three days before Thanksgiving.  

The Chaminade women’s team has a much different history.  Despite playing in NCAA II, the team is not fully funded with scholarships.  Their coach, Arthur King, has done a great job with the team, but even Arthur is only a part-time coach.  They are playing three games in my basketball event, the Oahu Thanksgiving Classic.

Their first game was St. Thomas Aquinas College out of New York.  They hung in the game with good guard play.  They would close the gap, but St. Thomas Aquinas would put on a spurt and pull away again.  In the end, Chaminade lost by double digits.

Chaminade played again the next day, Wednesday.  This time their opponent was Minot State University out of North Dakota.  Having played in Hawaii with my teams several times, I know the first game is tougher than the second.

The game for Chaminade was just like the first.  They would give up a double-digit lead, only to rally to pull close.  The Silverswords scored 26 second quarter points to make it a close game, but the Beavers ran it back to at least a 13-point lead as late as four minutes left in the game.

That’s when a 5-6 junior guard from Guam by the name of Destiny Castro moved into “the zone.”  I first heard the term when Michael Jordan introduced it, but I don’t know where it came from. The definition is when several factors all come together to allow a player to be in the flow effortlessly.  

Destiny started raining three-point field goals.  For a while, Minot State matched her scoring outburst.  However, a turnover here, a missed free throw there and Chaminade found itself down by only one-point with 3.1 seconds left. However, Minot State was at the free throw line.

The first free throw missed, and the Minot coach instructed the player to miss the second intentionally, a good strategy since Chaminade was out of time-outs. However, Destiny took a pass off the rebound.  A couple of dribbles and she launched a 31-footer. Like all her other shots in the fourth quarter, it never touched anything but net.

Chaminade had won a game with a great ending.  It was their first win in my events over the years in Hawaii.  The game made me think about some great endings my team had experienced.

The great ending my Doane College team experienced and lost involved a great point guard at Doane, Marissa Maaske. Mari and her husband, Chuck, live in Hawaii and Mari works as a physical therapist.  Mari is in the Doane’s athletic Hall of Fame and the only women’s player to ever be name a first-team All-American.  I just had a Thanksgiving meal with them.  Chuck is a great cook.

It was a Final Four game in the NAIA National Tournament in 1996.  The Doane team trailed by 15 points to Huron College with less than 10 minutes remaining.  That’s when Mari took over the game, scoring 15 of the next 17 points, and assisting the other two.

The Tigers tied the game when Mari hit a driving lay-up with 15 seconds left. Huron set up for a favorite play, but we had it defensed.  It didn’t matter as their sophomore post player hit a 17-foot jumper as time ran out.  That really hurt.

Those type of games keep you up at night.  If you are ever lucky enough to be part of one of those games where you win, sleep comes hard, too.  That happened to my team in the first round of the NCAA II National Tournament in 2008.  It had been a disappointing year for the most part for my Northwest Missouri State women’s team.

Expectations had been high, but at the end of the year, the Bearcats sat with a barely .500 record.  Then something kicked in and we won the MIAA Tournament in Kansas City.  We qualified with the worst record of any of the 64 teams in that year’s national tournament.

We were seated eighth in our region, which was not surprise.  Our opponent was West Texas A & M.  They had not lost at home in four years.  Not unexpectantly, we trailed by 13 points at half.  I was really mad because I thought we were playing scared.  Kelly Quinlin, our trainer saved the day.  She yelled at me before I could get to the locker room to calm down.  She was right.

We came out and sent the game into overtime.  It looked like a great ending would happen for West Texas as they hit a rebound shot with 2.9 seconds left to take a 2-point lead.  That’s when fate and Meghan Brue took over.

We had practiced a certain play almost every day all year.  Meghan was to cut from left to right, get the ball at half-court, take three dribbles and hopefully have a decent shot.  

Meghan did catch the ball, but not cleanly.  She dribbled once, set her feet and shot a 45-foot, half-court shot.  This time the great ending was with the Bearcats.  Just like with Chaminade, Northwest had won in a great ending.  

It’s Thanksgiving and basketball is finally getting serious.  Watch out for those great endings.  You never know when you will see one.