Sunday’s national championship between no. 1-seeded Notre Dame and no. 1-seeded Mississippi State ended with Notre Dame winning by 3, a result made possible by this incredible shot by Arike Ogunbowale:
Same as we did with Chennedy Carter’s perfect game-winner earlier this tournament, let’s go through the best parts of the play, because there are so many “bests” of the play, because the play was unbelievable, because Arike Ogunbowale is incredible.
Marina Mabrey’s Reaction
She’s the one standing out near the opposite side of the 3-point line at the beginning of the play. Watch how she starts to creep in toward the paint when the ball goes up, her whole body filling with electricity as the ball bombs its way toward the rim. As soon as the universe decides that it wants the basket to be good, she jumps up with so much joy that she not only pumps both of her fists, but also—and this is the really great part—she pumps both of her feet, which was not a thing that I knew people did until I saw her do it.
(A bonus: Jackie Young, the player who inbounds the ball to Ogunbowale, has a similar celebration.)
(Another bonus: Jackie Young balled the fuck out during Notre Dame’s Final Four game against UConn. She hung a 32-11 stat line on them, which, if we adjust for UConn’s dominance, is like hanging a 65-28 stat line on any other team.)
The Play Call by Adam Amin
For the win …
ARIKE OGUNBOWALE … WINS THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP … FOR NOTRE DAME!”
It was exactly what it needed to be, which is to say it was (1) tense without being fake dramatic; (2) hopeful (while the shot was still in the air) without being biased; (3) excitingly climactic; and, maybe most importantly, (4) aimed to serve as only a side dish to the play and not the biggest part of it. It’s hard for an announcer to hit all four of those things, and Amin did it like he knew what was going to happen before the play even started.
(A bonus: Amin had an equally expert play call for Ogunbowale’s game-winner against UConn two nights earlier where he said nearly the exact same thing. In that one, he called it, “For a trip to the national championship … Ogunbowale … GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!” Getting to hear him call the same thing in back-to-back games was like getting a surprise sequel to a movie that you didn’t even know needed one.)
Muffet Mcgraw Being So Flooded With Emotions in the Moment That She Got Reverse Lockjaw
This was Muffet’s 800th career win at Notre Dame. Coming into the tournament, there were only six coaches in NCAA history who had 800 or more wins and advanced to seven Final Fours and five title games: McGraw, Dean Smith, Geno Auriemma, Pat Summitt, Mike Krzyzewski, and Roy Williams. That’s it. That’s all.
A Thing You Don’t Get to See in the Clip
Notre Dame got pummeled in the first half of the game. (MSU held them to just THREE POINTS in the entire second quarter. I tried to call the police to report MSU because I was certain that what they had done was a crime—bullying or aggravated assault or something—but it turns out it was not.) The Irish were down by as many as 15 in the third but ended the quarter on a 16-1 run to tie it up going into the fourth. It was tight the rest of the way, but then Notre Dame was suddenly down by five points with less than two minutes to go. They went on an 8-0 run to steal the game, including hitting the only two 3s they made as a team. (It was Mabrey who hit the other one.) (She did so after MSU’s Roshunda Johnson hit an extremely contested, under-duress, shotgun-blast-in-your-fucking-chest-3 to put the Bulldogs up five that should’ve iced the game for them.) (The whole last quarter of the game was incredible, really and truly.)
Arike Calling for the Ball
You can actually hear Arike calling for the ball only in the video below, which was shot by Michelle Smith, who was sitting right near where the inbound pass happened. Look:
Once Arike shakes free, you hear her, ever so faintly, and also ever so calmly, say, “Here,” as in, “Here I am,” as in, “I’m right here,” as in, “I’m the person you’re looking for,” as in, “Give me the fucking ball.” Listening to her on the video is a great peek at the kind of colossal confidence a person has to have to take (and make) a shot like what Arike ended up taking (and making). It was the biggest moment in her sporting life, under the greatest amount of pressure, with the highest stakes possible, and she was completely, totally, entirely calm. If I were dropped into that spot, I wouldn’t have spoken in a normal voice like she did, I’d have yelled as loud as I’ve ever yelled, and it wouldn’t have been “HERE!” that I was yelling, it would’ve been, “DON’T YOU DARE FUCKING THROW ME THAT BALL!”
(A bonus: It’s incredible to think about how Arike hit a game-winner Friday night in the Final Four to send her team to the championship game, which is legitimately less than even a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and it wasn’t even the most important shot she hit over the weekend. Has anyone ever had a more clutch showing than what Arike did these past three days?)
(Another bonus: I’ve watched the clip of Sunday night’s winner 100,000 times. I still don’t know how she made the shot. Everything about it—the fact that it was so heavily contested; the fact that Arike had missed her two previous 3s in the game; the fact that Arike was falling to the right and so off balance that she had to stick her left leg straight out to the side like a karate kick to try and keep her body upright, something like those very expensive sailboats that balance on their sides do—suggests she should’ve missed it. And yet, here we all are, kneeling before her solid diamond statue, praying to it for absolution.)
Another Thing You Don’t Get to See in the Clip
After the refs had decided that there was still 0.1 left on the clock and the players were walking back onto the court to play it out, Ogunbowale, talking to someone (or someones) in the crowd, pointed to her forearm and shouted, “Ice! Ice! Ice!” And, I mean, look, I taught science for nine years. Like, that was actually my job. I was paid by the state of Texas to do that. And a significant part of the curriculum was dedicated to human systems, one of which is the circulatory system, which is responsible for, among other things, moving blood through the body. I read and learned all about it so I could teach it with great authority and confidence. So what I’m saying is I KNOW that humans have blood in their veins, not ice.
I know that.
I Know That.
I 100 PERCENT KNOW THAT.
That said, there’s a tiny piece of me that believes that Arike Ogunbowale might really have literal ice in her literal veins.
Notre Dame’s Bench (and Cheerleaders) (and Band)
There are definitely big moments that you like to have happen in front of an opposing team’s bench. (For example, a middle-of-the-quarter 3 that happens during a momentum-swinging run is always great in front of the other team’s bench because it allows the person who shot it to turn and stare at them for a second, a very clear “You all are so dead” move.) For end-of-game moments, though, it’s always best if it happens on your side of the floor because then the replay forever includes (a) everyone being absolutely frozen from fear when the ball is in flight, and then (b) everyone being absolutely overcome with a gargantuan and uncontainable happiness as soon as it goes in. That mosh pit is just so much fun to watch insta-materialize.
The Final Frame of the Video
The shot was perfect.
The night was perfect.
The tournament was perfect.