At the end of each College Basketball National Championship Game, they play the song titled ‘One Shining Moment’ which highlights many special moments from that year’s NCAA Tournament. Sung by Late R&B artist Luther Vandross, it’s a favorite and dramatic salute to the end of the College Basketball season.
But let’s be honest: This song could’ve been played for the Villanova Wildcats as they had their own ‘moment’ that won them the National Championship. G Kris Jenkins dramatic 3-pointer as time expired to give the Wildcats a 77-74 victory, earning them their first national title since the Rollie Massimino-Eddie Pickney-led team what upset the Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas in 1985.
It was the first buzzer-beater since NC State’s Lorenzo Charles’s dunk stunned Houston in the 1983 National Championship.
With Pickney, Massimino and other Villanova alumni in the audience, the current Wildcats team did them proud as they bring another trophy home to the City of Brotherly Love in Philadelphia, Pa. For Philly, it’s their first championship since 2008 when the Phillies got it done. For that city, It’s a long-overdue celebration.
It’s also a salute to A Wildcats team that was clearly one of the best teams in College Basketball during the regular season. With their suffocating defense, they clearly dominated the Big East Conference and were ranked #1 for a couple of weeks in the Top 25. They finished the regular season in the Top 10, and many felt they were slighted when they were denied a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But nevertheless, they took their #2 Seeding and rammed it down the NCAA’s throats in route to the National Championship. But they know that it truly took a fight for that trophy from a truly worthy opponent in the #1 Seeded North Carolina Tar Heels and their enigmatic guard, Marcus Paige.
The young man, put the Tar Heels on his back and willed his team back into this game when it seemed like the Wildcats were about to run away with it. His key baskets were Step Curry-eques and he his game-tying-acrobatic 3-pointer with seconds left was epic. But unfortunately it happened before that other epic 3-pointer by Jenkins won the game.
Truly the Thrill of Victory for the Wildcats and the Agony of Defeat for the Tar Heels. But make no mistake, there were no losers in this game as they fought tooth and nail on this sport’s biggest page.
In the first half, the Wildcats took control of the game in the first half as they led by as much as 9 points. While Page was starting to warm up, the Tar Heels got help from G Joel Berry II as he hit 3 of his 4 3-pointers to pave the way. The Tar Heels (33-7) who struggled from 3-point land during the regular season were 5 for 7 in the first half. They also got 3 from F Justin Jackson and 2 from Page, who also had 4 for the game. Those key baskets gave them a 39-34 lead at halftime.
But in the second half, the Wildcats (35-5) started playing like the team that they were all season. Making key baskets by Jenkins, G Ryan Ariciacono and what about the performance from G Phil Booth, who came off the bench to give his team 20 hard-earned points. In a game like this, it’s had to give one player an award, but it was Ariciacono (16 points) who was awarded this year’s Most Outstanding Player honor.
But Paige did all he could to get that award as he capitalized on several mistakes by Villanova and hit key baskets to close the gap. Eventually, it was 74-70 and when he had the ball with his feet in the air, he put up a basket that was nothing but net, tying the game at 77 with 6 seconds left. That basket bought many Tar Heels fans to their feet, including Alumnus Michael Jordan, who was in attendance.
After a timeout by HC Jay Wright, Ariciancono took the ball and passed the ball to Jenkins, who put up a shot at time expired and watched the ball sail through the net for the victory. The Wildcat players mobbed Jenkins while the Tar Heels dissolved in tears. A Composed Wright walked over and shook hands with a sunned Roy Williams, HC of the Tar Heels. Game over, Wildcats win in front of over 73,340 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
For the Tar Heels, Paige led with 21 points, Berry with 20, but it wasn’t enough to give Williams his 3rd national title as Tar Heels head coach. For the Wildcats, it was Booth that led with 14 and MOP Ariciacono with 16, but it was Jenkins who got the final 3 of his 14 points on that buzzer-beater that gave his team the title.
“I can’t wait to see that look on my face because I was just shocked and Arcidiacono made a great pass and Kris Jenkins has been incredible all year,” Wright said who won his first NCAA National Championship “We beat a class program. Great coach and great team. We have a lot of respect for North Carolina.”
“The difference in winning and losing in college basketball is so small.” A devastated Williams said “The difference in your feelings is so large. The hurt can never go away.”
Sometimes in the world of sports both teams are so valiant, that they both deserve a round of applause for their efforts. Such is the case of Villanova and North Carolina, who both played their hearts out. A game like this shouldn’t be debased by a score and a clock, but unfortunately that’s the way it is in sports. Villanova won this game, but there’s no way North Carolina walks off that court as losers. That truly describes One Shining Moment.
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