Dec. 17, 2009
I know why people don't play Marist. Two reasons: It's ridiculously hard to get to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and playing there is like playing at Hickory. Just sub in edgy urbanites for the country bumpkins and you've got the picture. It was like the fervor of an old NAIA match up between Bethany Nazarene and Oklahoma Christian, except the language had way more color. But I haven't had that much fun at a game in forever.
I'm still not sure exactly how we won. We didn't guard Rachele Fitz all night and we bricked enough free throws to build a starter home. But when we had to, we made some plays.
Down 10 with 10 minutes to go and D-Rob in foul trouble, Carlee hits a 3 that scarcely moves the net and just like that, we're back in the game. We put D-Rob on Fitz. Jo doubles forcing a turnover. Ny hits a three. It's a two-possession game.
AT takes a charge. We make some freethrows. Then we get the boards and make the stops and suddenly we're up one with three minutes remaining.
Then D-Rob fouls out.
They make two free throws. We turn it over; they miss a freethrow; we make two freethrows. Down one. We foul. Marist makes two free throws and calls a timeout.
Twenty-five seconds remain. It's our ball, length of the floor and we need a 3 to tie. The Red Foxes are going berserk. I give a silent shout-out to Gene Hackman and Shooter and draw up the picket fence. Carlee and AT set two perfect screens and Ny drains a deep three. We're going to OT.
I'm not sure anybody was ready to call it a night anyway. It was almost as if the ball had no choice but to go in. Forty minutes wasn't enough for the magic that was going on inside that little wooden hotbox. Everybody involved deserved just a little bit more.
So we played on.
And I could not be more proud of my team's resolve in the extra period. We changed defenses and put people in different spots for sets. Ny nailed another deep, gutsy three and Carlee and AT got every board, while our freshman from Derby, Kansas, played like she'd been working her whole life to be in this game at this particular point in time.
Final score: 80 - 71. I'm not sure if we escaped or prevailed or if there is even a difference. I just know it was a heck of a lot of fun.
Comebacks are gifts that keep on giving, if you're paying attention. You can draw on them for an entire season; sometimes even from one season to the next. They can fuel you with a belief in your own capabilities that you can't get in any other way. Comebacks make you feel strong and after you live one out you never feel behind really, even when you are. And that can be a great thing.
But to the astute competitor, a comeback is more than just a confidence booster. It's a reminder that you just dodged a bullet. You played your get out of jail free card. The attentive athlete retraces the steps that led to the moment the comeback was born; then they get to work on the issues they discover. If you're really paying attention you know you got the 2-for-1: the wake up call of a loss wrapped in the euphoria of a win.
Ultimately, I'm guessing that there are some teams who just do it this way. Some squads play better when every possession is weighty. For some there's never going to be a blowout. It's just gonna be a knock-down, drag-out mess until the final buzzer blows every time.
I'm OK with that, though. Because while I much prefer winning pretty, winning ugly beats losing every time.