Justice Is Served

March 12, 2010 5:23 PM

It's not 'March Madness' for without reason

This is what March Madness is. This is what happens in the heat of madness -- outcomes as improbable as the sun setting in the east. Last second dramas unfold that create joy on one side, despair on the other.


If March Madness is the divine work of the sports gods, what month is?


For the gods surely must have their hands on things for games like the ones today at The Q. James Cameron couldn't have directed more dramatic endings than several games that played out here in the Mid-American Conference tournament.


Take the seedings and bury them in the graveyard two blocks from the arena, for if they meant anything, nobody paid them much mind. That's seemed apparent from game after game in the tournament: teams as even two yardsticks -- 36 inches both - their NCAA hopes resting on winning, their season itself resting on winning.


So you get games such as the one Akron and underdog Eastern Michigan played in the second of two afternoon games Thursday. It wasn't the Syracuse-UConn game of last season - no game will ever duplicate that March Madness insanity. It was, though, college basketball played to the hilt - two prizefighters, one coach said, trading stiff blows, each trying to land the knockout punch.


It was Akron that did, 97-89, in two overtimes.


"They were able to outlast us," EMU coach Charles Ramsey said.


Ramsey's was the assessment that no one could dispute, not if they watched this tension-filled game. For victory was the result of one team was outlasting its opponent, a victory that one mistake -- if it was, indeed, a mistake -- played a pivotal role.


Holding a three-point lead with six seconds left in the second overtime, all the Eagles needed to do was foul. They needed someone, anyone, to reach out and collar one of the Akron players before he could set himself and take aim at tying the game.


"One thing I was yelling was: 'Foul, foul, foul,'" Ramsey said.


That was the strategy; it had to be. Akron coach Keith Dambrot said as much.


"I'm not gonna lose on the three-ball," Dambrot said.


A foul would have forced Dambrot, whose Zips had played below their pedigree, to rely on a set of the most peculiar circumstances if he hoped to turn a three-point deficit into a tie.


At that point, don't even mention turning that 81-78 deficit into a victory, not with what was left on the The Q's clock by the time Akron point guard Steve McNees dribbled the ball past midcourt.


But between the inbound pass and his dribble up court, McNees found his journey unimpeded. He cut between two EMU defenders and spotted up just beyond the three-point line. His shot was straight and true -- a three-point deficit erased, and a season kept alive.


"A lot of big plays happened in this game," Dambrot said.


And the biggest of them was McNees'.


The second overtime was anticlimactic. The Zips had escaped what looked like certain elimination. They kept their season alive. They can play one more day, which is all a team can ask.

A Member Of