Today in the world of sports just proved what a true rollercoaster of emotions these games we have grown to love truly are. This just goes to show also that it does not matter what the game is, or who it is playing... if it is a competitve game, emotions are flying around, whether it be a DII Men's Basketball championship game, or a Women's Basketball Sweet 16 match-up, everybody wants to win.
So let's go for a ride on this rollercoast real quick here, and just try and put yourself in the shoes of these two young athletes that put everything they had in them out on the floor for the love of the game. Yeah, for the love of the game.. no money, none of that. Pure love for the game.
Our first loop on the rollercoaster begins with Lindsey Harding of the Lady Duke Blue Devils. Most of you are probably like me and really don't follow the women's side of the tournament as much as you do men's, but if you did not see this today... I have to say you missed out on a thriller.
As some of you may know, Duke was the best team in the women's league this season, and nobody gave the Scarlet Knights a chance against them in the Sweet 16. The game was a hard fought battle all the way through, and really could not have had a more suspensful ending. With just 5 seconds left on the clock, the Blue Devils were down 53-52. Lindsey Harding steals the inbound past from Rutgers and takes it the length of the court and drives through the lane only to be fouled with .1 left on the game clock. So with .1 left, Harding steps up to the line with two shots... one to tie, two for the win. The first shot clangs off the back of the rim and bounces out. Harding had an amazing season and is one of the best point gaurds in the nation, and she is almost an 80% foul shooter, so she steps to the line for her second shot. Harding clangs the second one off the back of the iron again, and watches the .1 tenth of a second left in her college career tick away as she falls to the floor in tears. This is the low part of the emotional battle we have come to know as sports.
Now let's visit the other end of the rollercoaster for today. This part of the ride brings us to a young man named Anthony Atkinson, a student of Barton College, a DII school. Today was the National Championship game of the men's DII league, between Barton and Winona State. Winona State found themselves up 74-67 with just 45 seconds left in the game and they appeared to have the title wrapped up. Atkinson had other plans. On Barton's next possesion, Atkinson hit a bucket to make the score 74-69, then Barton had to foul. Malvik missed the front end of a one and one and Atkinson went down the court and hit another jumper, making it 74-71. After the bucket, Atkinson stole the inbounds pass and laid it in and got fouled in the process giving him a chance to tie the game at 74. Atkinson missed the free throw to tie, and the score was 74-73 in favor of Winona State. Barton had to foul again and Jonte Flowers of Winona was able to hit one of two making it 75-73. Quickly Atkinson rushed down the score for a layup tying the game at 75 with just 11 seconds remaining. Just seconds later, Barton's gaurd Bobby Buffaloe came up with a steal and threw the outlet to a wide open Atkinson who, with no time left on the clock, laid in the buzzer beating layup to take the game 77-75, shocking Winona State and breaking their 57-game win streak.
So in a matter of 45 seconds, Atkinson netted 10 points and a National Championship title. That sounds like a very productive and exciting 45 seconds to me, what do you say?
So yeah, let's just remember what these kids go through day in and day out. The highs and lows of these games are amazing, and the level of competition is even more overwhelming. These kids give it everything they have every game they play throughout their college careers. They go through the roughest of times, and the best of times, and you know what the best part about it is? They do it for the love of the game.