Tuesday, April 05, 2005

March Madness Ends with May

This was the championship game that everybody was hoping for. Well, those of us that were rooting for Illinois might not be happy with the final score, but we can’t argue the play of both teams and the excitement of the second half. This game had the look and feel of the original Rocky …UNC got off to a fast start and was dominating the game through the first 24 minutes. Just when you might have thought that the Illini were finished they came roaring back ferociously. But in the end it was the better team that clung to victory, celebrated a National Championship while taking a big piano off of Coach Roy Williams’ back. Two great teams in one fabulous final.

There was one significant difference between the Tar Heels and Illinois last night. One important distinction that picked up North Carolina and led them to victory. Sean May looked and played like a man possessed last night. The feeling you got from him was that he could not be stopped, and he couldn’t. The look in the Illini defenders was one of despair, because they knew deep inside that they wouldn’t be able to stop him too. Sean May was incredible – 10 of 11 from the field with ten boards. Sure he got help in the first half from Rashad McCants, and the overall play of point guard Raymond Felton was very good but this game belonged to May. The Illini had no answer for his inside play and couldn’t match his toughness under the boards. Jack Ingram and Jim Augustine, both 6’10” gave up strength, weight and quickness to May as he carried the Tar Heels to victory.

Luther Head and Deron Williams’ hot shooting in the second half brought Illinois back and had them on the verge of a historic comeback…but in the end, their shots fell just short as did the valiant comeback. Illinois amazing season ended sour last night, but in fairness they played a great game and lost to a more talented team.

And so it goes, the kid who carried the tape of his father’s NCAA Championship game in his bag for the last several months has a tape of his own now. Sean May’s Dad – Scott May was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers undefeated championship team. Sean did his Dad a little better in his title appearance, matching his 26 points but grabbing two more rebounds than the old man did. In what most likely was his last game in Carolina Blue he walked from the court a true champion and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. A long way from the 8-20 season when he, Felton and McCants were freshman.

The third time is a charm in the title game for Coach Roy. Roy Williams finally can say that he’s a championship coach. 16 trips to the ‘Dance’ in his 17 seasons as a head coach and 5 Final Four appearances didn’t really mean much until the clock showed zeroes and UNC was National Champions. Roy said during the interview discussions last night, “I'm no better a coach than I was three hours ago." – Yes, Roy you are. Now you can be held up there with your mentor, the great Dean Smith and coaches like Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight. You have finally proven that you are a Hall of Fame coach and April 4, 2005 was your crowning moment. Congratulations.


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