Everyone has their favorite March Madness memory. Mine was March 17th, 1989, watching live one of the greatest games in tournament history. David v. Goliath. #16 seed Princeton v. # 1 seed Georgetown. Well, sort of watching it.
Described by Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff as The Game That Saved March Madness, the game matched two legendary coaches: Princeton’s Pete Carrill — he of the back door pass and milking the clock — and Georgetown’s John Thompson, he of trademark white towel carried on his shoulder.
(Of note, Wolff ’75 is one of Brighton High School’s most accomplished alums, co-captain of the basketball team and award winning author. He also went to Princeton so may be biased.)
Before the game, Carrill had said, “I think we’re a billion-to-one to win the whole tournament,” adding, “To beat Georgetown, we’re only 450 million to one.”
But, as the game progressed it became clear the plucky Tigers — back door passing, taking nearly all 45 seconds of the shot clock, playing tough team defense — would take the Hoyas down to the wire. And maybe pull off something never done been before or since: a # 16 beating a # 1.
Having graduated from Brown, I was then living in Providence (the game was at the Civic Center). Princeton normally trounced Brown, although we had snuck into the tournament in 1986 only to be pounded by Syracuse 52 – 101. But that night I was rooting for our rival, the 450 million to 1 underdog.
Initially, I listened on the radio. But as the game was tight and the announcer kept talking about history in the making, I decided to go to the Civic Center, sans ticket.
Not having a usable car, I had to walk, the whole time listening on my radio. It was a long walk and up in the air whether I would make the Civic Center in time.
When I got there, there was only maybe 30 seconds or less left on the clock. The game sold out, a group of people had gathered outside one of the entrances on the second level. The ushers would not let us in because another game was scheduled at 10:10!
All we could see was the ceiling scoreboard reading 40 something to 40 something when I arrived. My radio did not work indoors; all we had to go on was the roar of the crowd and the scoreboard when it changed.
I distinctly remember home 50, away 49 with five seconds left. Then, one second left, still 50 – 49.
Suddenly, a huge roar at what must have been the last shot. The scoreboard stayed the same. Goliath had won, 50 – 49.
Later I learned what happened. Following a time out, Princeton inbounded the ball at mid-court. Bob Scrabis’ shot was blocked by Alonzo Mourning. After a scramble for the ball and with one second remaining, Princeton, still down by only one point, inbounded the ball from the sideline. Kit Mueller’s shot at the buzzer missed.
That was my one and only NCAA March Madness game.
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