It was 1998.
In Oklahoma City.
At the Myriad.
I was just walking in the door with Chris Garcia from WBAP in Dallas and Taylor Wilson from KSNT in Topeka. We were there to cover #1 seed Kansas which was to play Prairie View A&M later that night. As we meandered towards the media room in the bowels of the arena, we heard a big roar coming from the floor. Game one of the day was in progress. And, it was a good one.
Mississippi fans were celebrating after 2nd team All American Ansu Sesay had grabbed a rebound and been fouled with 4.1 seconds remaining. The Rebels led by two and could put the game away with two made free throws. We had just snuck into a media row right behind the Ole Miss bench which, at the time, was celebrating. That celebration, however, didn’t last long.
Sesay, a 75% free throw shooter on the year, missed both. The rebound got knocked out of bounds. Possession went back to Valparaiso with 2.5 seconds left. With no timeouts, the Crusaders set up one of the most improbable plays of all time.
Jamie Sykes threw the inbounds pass, Bill Jenkins made the catch and winning pass and Bryce Drew hit the improbable 3 with no time remaining. Final score: Valpo 70, Ole Miss 69. Taylor, Chris and I all looked at each other in disbelief.
We had just lucked into witnessing one of the most historic shots in NCAA Tournament history. After the game, we were finally able to watch the TV replay. And there we were. The three of us lined up right behind the Ole Miss bench on the same end that the long inbounds play took place. We had not just seen history, but we had kind of been a part of it.
In the end, Valparaiso advanced to the Sweet 16 where it lost to Rhode Island. And yes, that’s the same Rhode Island team that knocked off Kansas in the second round in OKC.