March Moment: A Standing Ovation, A Life Changed

Posted by jstevrtc on March 26th, 2010

Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment? We’ll be posting some of their answers for the rest of the month.

In this installment, Back Door Cuts contributor Mike Walsh describes how his March Moment changed his life and put him on a path from which he’s yet to stray:

Without a doubt, my defining March moment is from the 2001 NCAA tournament. It was my sophomore year at Saint Joseph’s University and as the assistant sports editor at the student paper, I was lucky enough to travel to San Diego to cover our boys as the No. 9 seed in the West bracket.

In the first round, the Hawks topped eighth-seeded Georgia Tech. It was the first tournament game I ever saw in person and watching my team win from press row was icing on the cake. In the second round, St. Joe’s drew No. 1 seed Stanford. On paper, it shouldn’t have been close. In the first half, it didn’t look like it was going to be.

But then, I and everyone else in the arena witnessed an unforgettable performance.

You know those games where the whole arena is buzzing with the prospect of an upset in the making? This turned out to be one of those games. You know those players who are suddenly thrust into the spotlight after a stellar showing on the NCAA’s biggest stage? St. Joe’s junior guard Marvin O’Connor was that player.

O'Connor (in red) in a Big 5 game against Penn

On the shoulders of the scorching hot shooting guard, who tied a career high with 37 points on 15-of-20 shooting, the Hawks wiped out a 14-point first half deficit and gave the top-seeded Cardinal all they could handle in the second half. For a while, it felt like it could be one of those rare instances where a No. 1 seed was sent packing on the first weekend.

But then, with 11.9 seconds left on the clock O’Connor walked off the court, having just fouled out, his dreams of a Sweet Sixteen berth just out of reach. The entire arena rose to its feet, applauding an other-worldly effort from a player that many had never heard of before against a team they routinely watched on the highlight reels.

My goosebumps had goosebumps.

Never had I seen such a reaction for a player on the losing team, especially not on a neutral court on the other side of the country. A truly special performance elicited a truly special moment.

St. Joe’s lost that game, 90-83. But that reception for O’Connor stands out more to me than the final score. It was that very moment that made me realize this is what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to devote the rest of my college career to journalism and pursue that passion professionally after graduation … all because of one standing ovation.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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2 responses to “March Moment: A Standing Ovation, A Life Changed”

  1. Fire Bill Carmody says:

    great call, i remember this one well. similarly, Robert Morris got two standing ovations as the team walked off the court after nearly beating Villanova last week. it wasn’t for one player or just the coach, but for the whole team. even Villanova fans were on their feet.

  2. Kevin says:

    similarly, CSUN’s effort in the first-round against Memphis gave me chills. I am a student at Cal State Northridge and our boys took it down to the wire. Sitting front row in the little sports bar on campus seeing my friends on the team give Memphis everything they had was simply amazing. Mark Hill threw in a few circus shots, Rodrigue Mels had some clutch 3’s and Willie Galick and Kenny Daniels each had tremendous dunks over the Tigers. In the end we lost by 11, but I will always remember the feeling I got seeing and hearing the crowd in KC, undoubtedly there to cheer for the 2-seed Memphis, rise to their feet and cheer for us like we were the favorite. Despite nobody being able to tell you where exactly Northridge is located (suburb of Los Angeles), the fraternity of college basketball knows no geographic boundary. If you can play, you can play. You will get respect.

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