Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NCAA Final Four: Emporia St. 97, Gannon 94 OT

My sophomore year at Gannon, we won the East Regional and advanced to Springfield for the Elite 8. We lost to Morehouse in the quarterfinals, 75-69, and 20 years later I can still vividly recall the emotional devastation in our locker room. Nobody said a word. Everyone was in tears to some degree. Me, I was sobbing.

I can only imagine what the Gannon locker room is like right now -- losing their perfect season in overtime of the Final Four after owning an 18-point second half lead. Plus, most of this team has been together 4 or 5 years, and Coach Wright knew some of them even before that when he was recruiting them in high school. Nothing will console them tonight, tomorrow, or maybe even the next few days. In time they'll appreciate everything they accomplished -- making the Final Four is awesome and a 37-1 record is stupendous -- but tonight the tears won't stop flowing.

26 comments:

  1. GU is up 10-7 now, but I'm worried about all the dribble penetration they're giving up. Too many easy, open threes for Emporia. Eventually they're going to start making those.

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  2. After 20 minutes, it looked like the Knights wouldn't be able to stop Emporia, but right now it's GU by 10, 57-47. Cleve is one of the best I've ever seen with halftime adjustments. One year the stats showed them outscoring opponents by an average of 3 points in the first half and 11 points in the second half.

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  3. 15-0 Emporia run right after it looked like Emporia was about to collapse. Knights need to get aggressive -- more shots in the paint, more defensive rebounds.

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  4. hell of a game Ladies! Unfortunately, we just couldn't shut them down when we needed to...

    I know these girls are going to be dwelling on many aspects of this game for days to come (months, years, etc) BUT they (and all of us) have to realize one thing...

    Your "goal" as stated last season was Elite 8. You did that and SO MUCH more! 37 straight wins, 3 HUGE wins over nationally ranked Cal U, Final Four appearance, overcame one of the best shooters in D2 and one of the biggest girls in D2, and there's a million more to that list.

    I know at this point your goal was a National Championship, but it UNFORTUNATELY was not meant to be. I wish I could say there's next always next year... unfortunately we all know I can't. But what I CAN say is..

    THANK YOU CARRIE NOLAN, KIM VARGAS, BRITTANY TABRON, TIFFANY CROCKER, KRISTINA FREEMAN, JULIE KLEBER AND SHANNA THOMPSON FOR THE ABSOLUTE BEST AND AMAZING PAST 3 - 4 YEARS OF BASKETBALL I'VE EVER SEEN.

    The entire city of Erie, county of Erie, and probably most of Northwest PA are so proud to have been a part of your tremendous success.

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  5. Tough way to go out ... it's always tough when it ends. One of the team weaknesses was the lack of depth past the seventh player, and it took 38 games, but it finally caught up with us when all three bigs fouled out in a tightly officiated game. It seemed like we ran out of gas at the end.

    But thanks to Cleve and everyone for a wonderful ride. Tiffany Crocker, Carrie Nolan, Kristina Freeman, Brittany Tabron, and Kim Vargas ... thanks for a great run and one of the most memorable seasons (and careers) in Gannon history ... we won't remember just the wins; we'll remember the way that you won ... with style, class, and as a team.

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  6. I'd like to add to your statement Golden as another personal statement:

    "We won't remember just the wins;" we will remember ALL OF YOU!

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  7. That was one that got away.

    I know we should be happy with the tremendous season the Lady Knights had, and I AM proud of them. But still, leading by 18 that late in the game, you have to finish, and they did anything but. I hate to be critical after such a great season, but there's a lot to be critical of.

    I agree regarding Coach Wright's halftime adjustments, but I was surprised that he didn't seem to have an answer when ESU went to a zone and his team was frittering away an 18 point lead in about 4 minutes doing things like taking low percentage shots early in possessions, relaxing on defense, getting careless with the ball, failing to box out, and missing free throws. Also, the way ESU was shredding GU's man defense and getting his post players in foul trouble, I might've at least TRIED a zone, just to see if it would slow ESU down a little(it worked for ESU-GU seemed lost against their 1-3-1, and that's when the game changed). And, at the end of regulation and again in OT, there's no way that the ball shouldn't have been in Freeman's hands right from the start of those possessions.

    Having said all that, it was too bad that Crocker had one of the worst games of her career at the worst possible time. Your 4 year starter at the point can't have all those turnovers and she absolutely has to make at least one, if not both, of those free throws at the end of regulation. GU probably wins if she makes those shots, and she missed both badly.

    Not that she was the only one. The number of missed free throws made it seem like the basket was being moved during the GU free throws. But for a play here and a play there, Tabron was out of it in both games in Missouri. That didn't help, either.

    It's a shame that the end of such an outstanding season would come like that. I always thought that IF GU did lose, that their opponent would play a great game and beat them, but that didn't happen. I certainly didn't expect them to beat themselves.

    And, please, please, let's not hear anything about the officiating, They were dreadful both ways from start to finish. They were clearly not qualified to handle a game played at that speed and with that intensity. But that didn't cost GU the game.

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  9. I agree that I hate to be critical after a game like this, however, there is one thing that highly disappointed me (and this was a collective team downfall)... perimeter defense.

    This team averaged something like 9.5 3's made per game... Now I know the 3 is not the highest percentage shot, however, after they knock down a few of them I think you'd realize they're legit. Yet, how many wide open 3's did ESU have?! That one girl seemed to be open all game! And with their big girl out in the first half, we still pressured the d inside to force them to shoot 3's. IMO, they should've went a little lax on the inside defense and focused on contesting the 3's... oh well

    Gannon74, my only critique of your post, is are you seriously going to drop names? I know you are not pointing the finger at anyone, but to actually mention names, after this game.. that's a bit rough. This team won 37 games as a TEAM, and they lost THIS GAME as a TEAM. Not one person is to fault; player or coach.

    But, I do agree with you... I didn't see this season ending nor did I hope it would end with us ACTUALLY losing the game... I really believed whoever beat us would truly have WON the game... but, as you said, this was most definitely not the case.

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  10. I attribute the missed FTs, again, to a lack of depth. Crocker played valiantly 40 minutes on Tuesday and 45 on Wednesday. She looked exhausted.

    In a six-game tournament, your weaknesses eventually catch up with you. ESU was the deeper bunch and a tough draw for Gannon for a second game in a second day, particularly in a game that was officiated very tightly. (I'm not saying the officials "cost" us a game -- it's just that GU isn't built for a game like this).

    For example, the men's team last year was much deeper at the 4 and 5 position.

    If GU and ESU played 10 times on a neutral court, I say that ESU wins 5-6. On a second game in a second day, I'd like ESU 70% of the time. They are a terrific team and they'd be a worthy champ if they won it all on Friday.

    That's basketball. I'm disappointed that we lost, but not stunned. Anyone can beat anyone this deep in the tournament. I'm thankful for the season and, while it's tough right now, we'll have nothing but positive memories of this bunch as the days and weeks (and eventually decades) move on.

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  11. Yes I am by no means stunned we lost. And you are most definitely correct... At this stage any team is fair game.

    I actually was getting tired of the tv announcers saying "fort Lewis has already pulled off a huge upset of Franklin Pierce and now emporia state will look to so the same". I don't consider either game an upset, besides the fact that the teams that lost are upset they lost. When you get down to 8 teams and then 4 and then 2, not much room to really be an upset.

    IMO, the only real upset I can see occurring in any current baskeball tournament, would be if UCONN women don't win the national championship. It's not because they're undefeated or have a 74 game win streak... It's how they've won the games. They're averaging something like a 20+ point margin of victory in all those wins. Gannon had a bunch of relatively close games.

    It was a great season and will be te greatest season in Gannon history for a long time to come. Right now we are sour and can point out the negatives, but in a few days after the tide has past, we will all realize what we all were just witness to.

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  12. Congratulations to Coach Wright, the Lady Knights and the entire staff. The ride was great; ended too soon, but you played all season with class, dignity and integrity.

    Disappointment? Yeah, a little. Negative commenting? Unbelieveable!!!!! The overwhelming support by the fans should far outweigh some opinions state here.

    Ditto to cc3's comments above. Again, congratulations on the greatest season in Gannon history and all of your accomplishments, both up to this point and in the future.

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  13. I, too was sick and tired of the announcer talking about what an upset the Franklin Pierce loss was and a GU loss would've been. The rankings are based solely on a team's record, and factors like injuries, strength of opponents, schedule inequities within a region, etc. make that an unreliable rating system. The other thing that bugged me was that whenever a foul was called, unless it was a player's fifth, he never mentioned how many fouls that player had, and that, IMO, is basic information that should've been related. Both announcers also repeatedly incorrectly identified a player who had scored or been called for a foul.

    Regarding my earlier criticisms, sorry, but I thought we were just discussing the game. I didn't think I was exposing anyone to national embarassment when I criticized them in this forum.

    I don't find it unbelievable to criticize a team after a loss on a discussion/opinion forum like this. Plenty of people did that last year after the mens' team lost. I didn't think this was anything more than around 10-15 people with a similar interest having a discussion about a basketball game and team. I wasn't being interviewed on television or writing a column in the newspaper. To crticize them in THAT type of forum would be unbelievable. This isn't.

    Neither was I stunned or surprised that GU lost. I was disappointed that they lost in the manner they did, rather than the other team defeating them. I mentioned that I was proud of their accomplishments. Obviously, to go as far as they did in the national tournament is an accomplishment for which they deserve hearty congratulations.

    However (WARNING-about to discuss the game again), they had a chance to move on to the national championship game, and they bungled it with some uncharacteristically sloppy play and questionable strategy. Besides the examples I mentioned earlier, another questionable tactic was that they were rushing themselves on offense the whole first half. When they had a chance to establish a lead with ESU's primary post player on the bench in foul trouble by getting the ball inside, they took a lot of long range shots early in possessions. The failure to build a lead there was critical. Also, failing to more effectively attack the ESU zone really surprised me.

    One other thing that really makes losing in this manner worse is that, based on what I saw in the first game, I would be very surprised if GU didn't lose the national championship game last night. IMO, unless they're too mentally and physically drained from the GU game, I don't see ESU losing to Ft. Lewis, who I thought took advantage of a less-than-stellar Franklin Pierce team.

    In summary, though they are to be congratulated for an extraordinary season, they had a chance that might well never come up again in the history of the school, and, well, with all the things they had going for them (experience, size, lack of major injuries-for the most part-all year, etc.), it would've been nice to take advantage of that opportunity.

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  14. The saying is if "you do not walk in a person's shoes you cannot criticize them" Looking at this team realisticaly they were only seven players deep. The truth of the matter is they ran out of gas. Lets keep in mind the team they played has won over 80% of their games over the last 12 years but have not gone 37-1. I might be willing to bet that Emporia will not be the national champs we will find out friday night. I for one want to thank Cleve the coaching staff and the Team for a GREAT year that I doubt we will see again soon.

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  15. a heartbreaking loss for sure...but congratulations and thank you go out to all the ladies and coaches!

    these teams could play 10 times and i couldn't guess the outcome.

    too bad that it worked out in esu's favor as far as travel for fans, and they're obviously familiar with that gym.

    i never played the game at this level, but i would think that this may have been a factor?

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  16. Congrats to Coach Wright, Lady Knights, and the entire coaching staff on a fantastic season. You represented not only yourselves but also the Gannon and Erie community with class and dignity. Thanks for providing us with not only great basketball but some great memories for years to come.

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  17. According to the ESU website, when ESU played @ Missouri Western in St. Joseph during the season, they played at the MWU fieldhouse, not the St. Joseph Civic Center, so there goes that theory.

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  18. ESU did not play at the Civic Center at all this season before the NCAA Elite 8.

    IUP Men advance to national championship game with a 76-70 victory over St. Cloud State.

    Game televised on CBS Saturday at 1pm.

    Hate to say it, but...

    GO INDIANS.. errrr... GO CRIMSON HAWKS! :-)

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  19. IUP plays Cal Poly Pomona in the finals. Good luck to IUP ... represent the PSAC well.

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  20. When you think about it, the GU men played well in 4 out of 6 halves of basketball against IUP this season. There were two good halves at home in January, only to fall late on Webb's shot (at least I think it was Webb). Then they took a halftime lead in the February game at IUP capitalized by the Piotrowicz lead 14-0 run. Of course they completely tanked in the second half to lose. And they didn't play so bad in the first half of the playoff game. So you have to give the guys credit for playing IUP tough, despite our whacky season.

    I'm still numb after the end of the girls' game last night. Those girls worked so hard, and the better team did not win the game. Unfortunately it seemed that their focus did wain at the wrong time, I know I started dreaming of the title game. Maybe a timeout at that point could have helped to keep them straight. What makes it so much more painful is that I can't imagine the next time a Gannon team will either have a chance at an undefeated season or a national championship. I guess anything can happen to a team that hits on the right cylinders at the right time. Lets hope that the time is soon enough for either the women or the men.
    Congratulations girls for the great season!

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  21. jeremy- i am still numb too. i had the honor of calling the game for werg, and consequently i had both the honor & the heartbreaking job of sitting in the press conference after the game. i know there is a rule about no partiality at the press table, but it was extremely hard to hold back my own tears as the five seniors & coach all came in crying.

    coach wright tried to say that the loss was completely his fault, that he didn't do all that he could. as only those girls could, they all shook their heads in disagreement as he said that, and freeman beat them all to the punch to disagree with him. it was a very brave and classy move on her part. not that we should be surprised, as they have been this way the entire season.

    congrats, girls! you gave us one heck of a ride!

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  22. Congrats to Villa Lady Victors on their 2nd straight State Championship! Kayla McBride is going to be one fun girl to watch at Notre Dame!

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  23. Anyone else watch the ESU-Ft. Lewis game and wonder what might have been?

    Final:Emporia 65, Ft. Lewis 53

    If only.........

    Oh well, great season, anyway.

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  24. Yes ... I watch some of the game and the first half was a slog. GU could have easily taken FL. Too bad, but we just had the wrong matchup in the wrong type of game on Wednesday.

    By the way, how could Cleve have let a great local player like Kayla McBride get away? Is his recruiting slipping? :-) Just kidding ... someone told me the other day that she TURNED DOWN UConn?

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  25. By the way, Bob, it looks like I won the bet.

    Emporia may not have gone 37-1, but I'm guessing that their league is somewhat stronger and more balanced overall, which probably led to some of their losses.

    While your statement that GU was only 7 deep is right on, that was a situation that only became the case in the last month or so of the season. Up to that point, Lowe, McCoy, and Dacek all got meaningful minutes, something that stopped around February 1. I, for one, would've been much happier with a regular season loss or three if it meant that those 3 players would've gained enough experience and confidence and the trust of the coach so that they could be inserted into a game like Wednesday's and hold their own. Much better to be 36-3 and win the national championship than where we are now. A couple more minutes rest for some of the starters would've made a big difference.

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  26. From what I know, Kayla McBride turned down UCONN, UNC, Duke, and Tennessee. When she had made her final decision, there was an article on highschoolinsider.com (I think that's the website... it's a recruiting site that lists the top X # of hs players, guys and girls) and the article said that she had "full rides" to many schools, but picked Notre Dame because she felt she'd have more of an immediate impact there, whereas somewhere like UCONN is only losing, I believe, 3 seniors (only 1 a starter and the only real significant contributor).

    Muffet McGraw was interviewed the other day during a Sweet 16 interview and one of the reporters actually asked about McBride and McGraw said that "McBride might come in and be one of the best all-around players we've had in some years. Not only is she athletic and smart, but she is 'athletically smart' and is a great team leader. I expect her to contribute immediately as a freshman". Of course, the topic then quickly changed back to the Sweet 16 in the fashion of "let's focus on now".

    Rumors has it Coach Wright has a 6'3 girl in the recruiting lineup... anyone hear? I'm anxious to see the Gannon girls' recruits next year and the next few years for the fact that this season may have ended up being a great "sell" to future recruits.

    Here's to the future for both teams...

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