WOW! This word is one of many that has described the game of March 17, 2003. Many of you already know who won the game between the Quincy Hawks and the NKU Norse women. Many of you know that it was one of the most incredible comebacks in the legendary history of women’s basketball here at NKU.
The 200 to 300 fans, team members, coaches and support personnel felt megawatts of electricity and adrenaline entering their bodies and minds during the game.
Fans watching the game or listening to it on the radio may have given up on the Norse at halftime. They looked awful. They were one for 12 in three point shots, shooting 30 percent from the field, being out-rebounded and getting shots blocked in the lane. They were trailing by 15 points and moving slowly. They could not soar with the high-flying hawks.
So why didn’t the team throw in the towel? Why didn’t team members wallow in self-pity over the loss of Sharell Snardon, the freshman phenom who had been averaging 14.5 points and nine rebounds a game over the last seven ball games, and who had been on fire during this tournament?
After all, they had just defeated the host team, Indianapolis, who had a season record of 29-2 and a ranking befitting that kind of record. They had been expected to lose this game, even with Sharell in the lineup. They didn’t lose. The Norse beat them on their own court and played a whale of a ball game.
So when Sharell had been knocked down on a breakaway lay-up by an overaggressive and frustrated Greyhound player after the game was decided, the sweetness of this victory was tempered by a genuine concern for Sharell, who had lost two teeth and had another chipped. She also suffered a broken jaw on the play,
So by all conventional logic, no one would have given it a second thought if they had just gone through the motions during the second half of this game. The Norse had another successful season, and the careers of three seniors, the last members of the 2000 NCAA national championship team, were ending.
The second half begins…
It appeared to be a given that the Norse would lose this game after a free throw by Quincy increased their lead to 16 points. The question was, how badly would they lose?
One often wonders what a coach might say to the team at halftime when they are being beaten in all phases of the game. What kind of Rochnean speech did Nancy Winstel have after 20 years coaching NKU basketball? Would she conjure up the “win one for the Gipper” diatribe? What would she say?
In analyzing the action that unfolded during the second half, it appears to this armchair coach that she said something to her team that lit the fire of the NKU logo in all of their hearts.
Suddenly, the shots that the Norse took were finding the bottom of the cylinder. The jump shots taken in the lane blocked in the first half were becoming conventional three- point plays as Quincy had to foul us because now the Norse were a step quicker. The Norse were more aggressive, were getting better position on the boards and were hustling much better and getting those loose balls that we were missing in the first half.
What did they do differently? The team had just come out of a catatonic state and played the type of game Winstel has coached now for 20 years. The three seniors stepped up and showed the rest of the team the way to win. They went on a 19-to-2 run during the first eight minutes of the second half. Their momentum was only put on hold during those forced media timeouts.
The rest of the game was played evenly on both sides, neither team holding a lead bigger than five points until the Hawks achieved that with 3:32 left in the game. The Norse could have slowed down then, but they were not finished yet. They went on another jaunt to tie the game at 61 all. From that point, there was no scoring until Bridget Flanagan put back a missed shot by Amy Mobley with 22.5 seconds remaining, giving the Norse the lead at 63-61. Mobley then picked off a sloppy pass by Quincy and threw the ball downcourt to Jessica Brock as she appeared headed for a breakaway lay-up. But she pulled up short and was fouled. After making the first of the one-and-one, she missed the bonus shot and Quincy got the rebound and called timeout with 5.5 seconds left. The Norse women were leading 64-61. Quincy had been fairly successful with the three-point shot during the first half, but their in-your-face defense lowered their successes. The Norse players were calm and concentrated during the timeout. They knew what they had to do. They must continue to play team defense and help each other out during these last 5.5 seconds, as they had been doing during the entire second half. There was no magic to what they had to do. They just needed to go out and put into practice what they have been doing successfully the entire season. They needed to operate as one cohesive unit bent upon the completion of the task at hand. The rest of the team encouraged, challenged and cheered the players for the last 5.5 seconds as they had been doing the entire second half.
Back on the court, Quincy pushed the ball up and fired off a running three-point shot, and it glanced off the right side of the rim as time expired. The NORSE WIN!
Pandemonium reigned supreme as players, coaches and fans were running, jumping and clapping for jjoy. Cameras flashed, the band played, and the cheerleaders were still cheering their hearts out. People were out on the middle of the court hugging each other and tears of joy were streaming off some of their faces. The feelings were surreal and electric at the same time.
Three other factors contributed to the concentrated effort of all in attaining victory that night.
The NKU pep band not only played the national anthem before the game, but it was their timely interludes that joined with our fans and cheerleaders, giving it a Norse flavor.
Secondly, our cheerleaders showing their usual precision and timely jjumps added to the arena’s look of an NKU home game. Their cheering, especially during the first half, kept the fans in the game.
Finally, the fans, some 200 in number, came to lend support to the players as well as to cheer on the players during the second half, when the game was seesawing back and forth.
By winning this game, NKU advances to the Elite Eight for the fourth time in five years. The Norse will play the Lady Blues from Washburn college in St. Joseph, Mo., at 4pm CST on Wednesday, March 26, 2003. If you can’t attend the game in person then listen to it on the radio at WTSJ(AM 1050). The Norse are worth your time.
WOW! What a game.