How Just a Kid from Princeton may have just Won Muffet McGraw a National Championship
This article is the fruition of my personal and our congregational pursuit to be rooted in Evansville and Blooming everywhere. Although the spiritual content may seem to lack in this blog, it is a reminder that when you are rooted, you may end up blooming on national television.
Am I a biased southern Indiana resident filled with pride after personally watching Jackie Young dominate every aspect of the basketball game in high school? Absolutely. However, I will try to write this article objectively.
Two years ago I watched red nation leave broken-hearted after Southridge’s game plan took out the all-time Indiana scoring leader, Jackie Young, and the Princeton Tigers. Last night, I watched that same girl be a large part of a national championship… but wait she only had 6 points, and she was not the one who hit the off-balance 3 pointer as time expired to win the game against a defensive and offensive prolific Mississippi State. She was not the Sports Center main feature, Kobe Bryant didn’t Tweet her, and she is not considered by the world as one of the “clutchest” players in Final Four history. So why does this article have any validity?
This article emphasizes the importance of teamwork. As we lace up the sneakers for the men’s national championship tonight, I still have reminders around my house that my bracket was finished after the first round. One of the biggest offensive threats in college basketball this year, Trae Young (no relation), was my hope for a Cinderella story, but we quickly observed that one player cannot win a championship. Mississippi State had Teaira McCown, a 6’7” junior that dominated the boards throughout this NCAA tournament. However, that was not enough as Notre Dame’s head coach, AP Coach of the Year Muffet McGraw, found a way for her team to win a national championship by doubling and helping with the one threat.
The easiest explanation for the claim that “just a kid from Princeton may have just won Muffet McGraw a national championship" is that Jackie Young scored 32 points in the semi-finals on Friday against the number one team in the nation. This is the same team that tried to recruit Jackie, and I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Coach Geno Auriemma : Hey, you wanna come play here?
Young: I think I wanna stay in Indiana and play for Notre Dame
Auriemma: Well, have fun being 2nd place
Young: Challenge accepted
Assumably, there was more depth to the process than that, but what does it feel like to have fun being 2nd place? I finished 2nd in a national championship once, and it is not fun. McGraw knows all too well. Her team finished 2nd four times in a five year period, the other one was a final four appearance, losing to none other than UConn. So, can Muffet teach Jackie Young how to have fun being 2nd place? Not this year. However, without Young’s sudden rise to college basketball success with offensive efficiency as UConn double teamed the Notre Dame stars, Ogunbowale and Mabrey, Notre Dame may have very well been 2nd place once again to the women’s basketball powerhouse, but Jackie Young did what she had to do to ensure her teams’ place in the championship game.
Fast forward to the national championship. Young had 2 fouls early in the 2nd quarter and finished with only 6 points on 2 for 7 shooting. How does that win a national championship?
I love basketball stats because they do not lie. We can misinterpret rules, calls by refs, and many other aspects of the game, but typically stats are an excellent indicator of performance. For example, Notre Dame only played the championship game, and many leading up to it, with 7 scholarship players due to injury, which means sophomore Jackie Young had to step up earlier into her career than originally anticipated. However, there are other stats that go unnoticed. It says Young only had 2 assists, but that does not include that her presence as a ball handler created other opportunities for her teammates.
Here is another valuable undocumented stat: due to foul trouble, Jackie sat a large portion of the second quarter. Was it a coincidence that this is when the Irish only scored 3 points in the 2nd quarter? Remember, this is a prolific offense that scored 91 in the overtime thriller against UConn. So, if Young didn't score points, how did the Irish outscore Mississippi state 24 to 11 in the third quarter alone? Young did the stuff, or didn't do the stuff, to help them win the game. The oppressive defense of Mississippi State forced point guard Marina Mabrey to have 9 turnovers. Other guard and apparent hero of the final four, Arike Ogunbowale, was at one point 2 for 12 from the floor and finished 6 for 21. Contrastingly, Young, a ball handler throughout the second half, only had two turnovers and was 2 for 7 from the floor. By the way, her two baskets were at the very beginning and very end of the game. Her first layup helped ignite early momentum, and her second layup tied the game in the final minute giving Ogunbowale the opportunity to hit the shot of a lifetime for the second game in a row. Also, Young made the steal that got the Irish the ball back after Mabrey committed her 9th turnover with under twenty seconds to go that seemingly sealed the Irish’s fate as “having fun being 2nd place”.
If you scour the internet hard enough, you may find an article such as this, but the majority of the articles paint 6 for 21 Ogunbowale the hero. Did she hit two off-balance game winners on college basketball’s biggest stage against the toughest competitors? Absolutely. What we as Americans often forget, however, is the importance of the people who helped get them there. As “senior pastor” I often hit the “game winner”, but I regularly go 6 for 21 and commit several turnovers. To accomplish success in our community, I, like another double M individual Muffet McGraw, have to rely on stars such as Jackie Young to win any type of championship. This person is someone who does what he/she has to do to get the job done. They help the team be better. They are the people with the mentality of “just a kid from Princeton”, but they facilitate the biggest stages in sports.
Who are you? Do you thrive to have the spotlight? If you do, can you perform under the pressure as Ogunbowale did in back to back game winners? Do you thrive to help others succeed? Do you do what it takes to get the job done? If you do, can you perform under the humility of allowing others to have the spotlight to ensure your team a national championship?
Perhaps you too are “just a kid from Princeton”. What can you accomplish on the national stage? How can you be rooted where you are, southern Indiana or Southern Philippines, to bloom everywhere. I encourage blooming that contributes to events that transcend the importance of a basketball game. How are you proclaiming the Gospel? How are you loving others? How are you putting others first so the team can win?
Muffet's first, and only other, national championship was also on Easter, 17 years ago. Does God care about basketball? You hear a lot about prayers going up and miracles occurring, but does the God of the universe care about who wins a basketball game? In my reading of God's instruction manual, God cares about us loving Him and others and us living a way that encourages others to live like Him (making disciples). I'm not sure that happened with these two wins, but a lot of people are talking about God, but then again, it's Easter, so that should be expected.
Just a kid from Nineveh trying not to end up in a big fish.