My mom texted me yesterday saying that SNY wanted a one-word response from her to incapsulate the championship. She came up with Remarkable.
I think I’m still in disbelief. It hasn’t sunk in yet. None of it has.
But let’s rewind back to the Notre Dame game. Aka, the game that nearly made me throw up.
I was paralyzed with fear for most of the day. To the point that my appetite disappeared, which if you know me at all is really the worst thing that could ever happen. But at the same time, in a weird way, I knew we were going to win. Maybe it’s because I thought there was no way we would lose to one team three times in a season. But there was a weird feeling in my gut of “We got this.” I haven’t felt like that in a while in the tournament. Definitely didn’t feel that way in Indianapolis and Denver. I felt it on Tuesday.
Just like 2012, we were supposed to go to our friend’s house to eat snacks and watch Game of Thrones, set to start around tip-off of our semifinal. I didn’t want to be that mess like I was last year, so I made a very drastic decision. “We are not watching the game at all right now or until the show is over,” I announced to my boyfriend as we drove to the watch party. “We’re going to hang out with our friends to watch our show and I want to enjoy myself. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. I just want to go over to my friend’s house and have a good time watching our show, and then we can check in at halftime. And if you check the score of the game, do NOT tell me what’s going on, no matter what happens, or I will murder you.” He agreed.
I spent the entire first half of the game watching Thrones, eating pralines, and drinking wine with my friends. And, shockingly, my nerves completely dissipated. I felt relaxed and at ease. It also helped that this week’s episode of GOT was one of the funniest ones ever, but I honestly grew less and less nervous as the hour wore on.
At the end of the episode I finally allowed my boyfriend to tell me the score. I didn’t believe we were up 10. It seemed too good to be true. Plus my boyfriend tricked me into thinking he was seeing bad news on his phone when he checked the halftime score. Jerk.
You would think I watched the second half. Are you kidding? I didn’t want to ruin the luck! I turn into a superstitious creature this time of year. Wouldn’t you? At the end of the game, I sat there in happiness, watching our team celebrate. Finally, after three heartwrenching losses, we got the one that counted. Hell, I take every single loss to Notre Dame over the past two years gladly, because we got THIS one. We got this one for Maya Moore, Lorin Dixon, and Tiffany Hayes. We got this one for them.
The reason we won the game on Sunday is because, well, mostly Breanna Stewart is a monster and we had a dogged determination to outplay ND but also that we comported ourselves with confidence, ease, and efficiency. We’re also getting a lot better at not letting setbacks in a game get to us emotionally, something I honestly cannot say about Notre Dame during that second half. It was fascinating to watch the complete and total breakdown of the Notre Dame offense and defense as the game wore on. They just completely stopped functioning and communicating, and the frustration and attitude was written all over their faces. (I’m not making this up out of whole cloth…if you watch the tape you can see it clear as day. In the immortal words of Outkast, “I’m just being honest.”)
I ended up watching the game with my boyfriend at his place. I was going to invite him to my apartment to watch, but a quick survey of my kitchen led me to conclude I didn’t want our Final Four championship game dinner to consist of egg whites and ketchup. Someone remind me to grocery shop.
My nervousness was different, more sedated than the type I’d had before the ND game. This was a nervousness borne out of everyone saying we had this in the bag. Louisville beat Baylor, for God’s sake. There’s no way we would just roll over them. And for the first 5ish minutes of the first half, it seemed that way as we found ourselves down four. That’s when the pessimist part of my brain thinks it’s all over and we’re screwed.
Then…it all changed.
I sat in shock as our run grew to 19-0. Saw Kelly Faris, who usually isn’t one to look for the three, nail them over and over again. Saw Kaleena turn into an efficient offensive power. Saw Breanna Stewart just…do everything.
Best moment of the game wasn’t when Breanna did all of her amazing work, or Kelly’s 3s, or Kaleena’s dominance. The best moment was when Buck got in the game and SCORED ON A BREAKAWAY LAYUP. I screamed so loudly I’m pretty sure the neighbors woke up. That might be my favorite moment of this entire year.
When the buzzer sounded I didn’t cry, like I have in other years. I just sat there and smiled, and watched the girls celebrate. I wished like hell I could be there to watch it with them, and to hug all of them, but I’ll have to wait until I see them later on this spring.
I’m going to miss how unbelievably sweet Heather Buck always is. She always comes straight up to me when the team visits my parent’s house and gives me a big hug, asking me how I’m doing. She’s one of the smartest kids my dad’s ever had and despite the fact that she never turned into a huge star for us, I don’t think she would have wanted it any other way. She was and is beloved by our fans.
I’ve known Caroline for nearly 6 years and the way she’s grown from her freshman year into a leader for this team through the devastating knee injuries make this ending all the better for her. She’s a sweet kid with a damn good brain for basketball and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if she got into coaching.
And oh man, I wanted this one for Kelly so bad. Nobody, and I mean nobody, deserved to get their final season ending the way this one did like she did. She’s one of the best people my Dad has ever coached. I’m lucky to know her. I said to you guys in my recap of our win in San Antonio three years ago that Kelly was going to be a force to be reckoned with. And she is.
I’m so happy to know these girls, and to have this game go the way it did, and have the season, with its ups and downs, end the way I wanted it to last year when I had to watch the girls cry after the Notre Dame loss in the Final Four. But we needed all of those heartbreaks in order to make this triumph so amazing.
PS. No Obama this time. I’m not allowed to go because I’ve “met him too many times already.” File that one under Problems Nobody Else Has. I feel like an asshole even complaining about it.
PPS. Stay tuned for some exciting news regarding travel plans for business this summer.