Am I the biggest college women’s basketball fan on the face of the planet? Absolutely not. To be honest with you, I had not watched a game the entire season until this weekend. That being said, I was wildly entertained by the two finishes I watched in which featured one of the greater upsets you will ever see and one that helped clinch a National Championship for a Catholic school on Easter. The Women’s College Basketball Final Four was held this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, and coming into the weekend, there was one heavy favorite, UConn. Over the years, UConn’s women’s basketball has asserted themselves as one of the greatest dynasties we have ever seen in sports history. This year, the expectation to succeed was no different and many said this was one of the most talented teams they have ever had. They entered the Final Four with a perfect record of 36-0, and were expected to win with ease, giving them their 12th National Championship in program history. Notre Dame basketball wanted to hear none of that. Muffet McGraw had her team coming into Final Four weekend clicking on all cylinders. Although the Notre Dame women struggled with injuries the whole year and faced 4 ACL tears, they had still came into the weekend with a 33-3 record and were ready to turn some heads. I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t think Notre Dame had a fighting chance to beat the Huskies on Friday night and I think there are a plethora of people who would say that they had the same opinion. Notre Dame said up yours to the haters predictions. They battled the entire night and it seemed like they were going to pull off the upset in regulation. UConn would not go down however, and staged a furious last minute comeback, sending the game into OT.
Then in OT, something magical happened and a shot went down that will be shown in highlight reels for hundreds of years to come. Meet Arike Ogunbowale. A junior guard from Milwaukee who’s confidence can be spotted from a mile away. During the duration of the game against UConn, Ogunbowale wanted to have the ball in her hands and wanted the moment to be hers. She did not do it in a selfish way however, she just knew that she was the best player on her team and the best player deserves to have the ball in their hands and makes moments happen. Fast forward to the final moments of OT. The Huskies and the Irish are knotted up at 89 and the Irish have the chance to hold for one. Ogunbowale has 25 points on the night but is looking for more and knows that this game is hers to win. She took the ball in her hand made a nasty dribble move to free herself from the defender and just watch this video to see what happens next, it speaks for itself.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! What a shot, what a moment, this is why we love sports. Notre Dame had completed the upset and had handed the seemingly untouchable Huskies their first loss of the season and had sent them home packing. Notre Dame was heading to the National Championship on Easter Sunday and were just one win away from the ultimate goal, a goal hundreds of teams have coming into the season, but finish with their heads hung low.
If you think Notre Dame’s road would get easier after defeating the best team in the nation, you would surely be mistaken. Waiting for the Irish in that National Championship game was Vic Schaefer’s Mississippi State Bulldogs who were coming into the game with a record of 37-1, and were ranked as the second best team in the entire country. They were deep, big, and athletic and would be one hell of a challenge for the Irish to overcome if they were going to win their second ever national championship and their first since 2001. The Bulldogs came out biting and the Irish had no answer. It seemed like this one was going to get ugly and Notre Dame’s magical season was going to come to an ugly end. The score heading into the locker room was 30 – 17 in favor of the Bulldogs and after scoring just 3 points in the second quarter, the Irish knew they needed someone to step up on the offensive side of the ball if they had any chance of coming back. That person was none other then Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale like she had done the whole season, had turned into a dominate leader and a force to be reckoned with. She started to make shots, make big stops on defense and little by little she helped her team claw back into the game. Heading into the 4th quarter, the score was now tied at 41 and we were in for one heck of a finish on the biggest stage for the women’s game imaginable. The fourth quarter did not disappoint. Both teams clearly showed how much they wanted this title and exchanged blows until the final buzzer sounded. As time winded down and the score even at 58, it had appeared as if Notre Dame would once again hold for the final shot. However, due to sloppy handling of the ball, Mississippi State stole the ball with just seconds to play and started on the break now having a chance to win it all. Then play got even more sloppy and Mississippi State turned the ball over, giving the ball back to the Irish, eventually fouling, in what was a chaotic sequence of play. Committing the foul for the Bulldogs, was center, Teaira McCowan who was having the game of her life. She had racked up 18 points on the night and had come down with an astonishing 17 boards. However, the foul that she had committed on the play was her fifth, which disqualified her for the remainder of the contest. With just 3.3 seconds to go, McGraw called a timeout and tried to set her team up and draw a play up to win the National Championship. If you had to guess, who do you think the ball went to? If you guessed Arike Ogunbowale you would be spot on. Ogunbowale received the ball at the side of the basket but beyond the arch, took a few dribbles to her right pinning herself in the deepest corner possible and launching an absolute prayer in heavy, HEAVY contest. If this shot were to go in, her name would go down in infamy and she would forever be known as one of the most clutch players of all time. She would of made two game winning shots, one taking down one of the greatest dynasties in sports and two winning her team their first National Championship since 2001. Was there even a question of if this ball went in, of course it went it, because this girl has absolute ice in her veins.
Notre Dame had pulled off another ginormous upset and they were now champions of the college universe. As for Ogunbowale, her status has changed from elite to legendary and she will never be forgotten as long as we may forever live. She is truly as cold as the other side of the pillow.