A basketball blessing?

I’ve written about sports for more than 35 years, in which time I’ve come to believe that God doesn’t care who wins a ball game.

After all, in a world in which earthquakes have devastated Haiti and Chile, a tsunami is threatening Japan, and which lives with the daily threat of terrorism, there are much more significant ways in which divine intervention is needful.

But sometimes you see things that make you wonder….

I spent this afternoon watching Wingate’s final regular-season basketball games of the season against South Atlantic Conference rival Carson-Newman. I had set up an interview with Emily Paffrath, one of Wingate’s best women’s basketball players of recent years and now a Carson-Newman assistant coach, for a story for this blog that I hope to post tomorrow. But I figured I’d stay for both games to see if both Bulldog teams could end up-and-down regular seasons on a positive note going to next week’s SAC tournament.

Carson-Newman’s women’s team showed why they’re ranked No. 20 nationally in NCAA Division II, defeating Wingate 76-65 to run their record to 22-4.

The men’s game figured to give Wingate a better chance to pick up a win, matching the 13-13 Bulldogs against a Carson-Newman team that was 10-16 and near the bottom of the standings. But things have seldom worked out as expected this season for the young Wingate team. “Tough luck” doesn’t come close to describing it.

Six of Wingate’s losses have been by two points or less, and nearly all of those came down to a last shot. In a couple of those games, the Bulldogs took a final shot that wouldn’t go in. More recently, in the past two games heartbreak came on the road at Lenoir-Rhyne and Newberry in the form of a “buzzer-beater” by the home team.

For a while, it didn’t look like that would be a problem on this afternoon, as Wingate held a 13-point lead with about 10 minutes left in the game. But Carson-Newman gradually fought back with the help of a turnover here and a bad shot there by the Bulldogs.

You could just feel the tension increasing, as the Bulldogs missed four or five free throws in the final couple of minutes that would’ve given them some breathing room. And you could almost see the “here we go again” look in the players’ faces.

Anyway, the game came down to a final possession. Wingate clung to a 66-65 lead with less than 6 seconds remaining. The Eagles were a little slow getting the ball up the court and guard Cameron Sharp had to let fly a shot from just beyond the midcourt line at the final buzzer. It looked like it was on target and about to produce one of those YouTube moments and another crushing loss for the Bulldogs.

But the shot clanged off the front of the rim. Game over. Wingate had survived. Seniors Larry Staley (16 points) and David Johnson (13), who had played well in their final home game, went out as winners.

I congratulated Wingate coach Brian Good as he prepared to do his post-game radio interview. “Yeah, we were awesome,” he said with a relieved smile. I don’t think he meant me to take him literally.

But as the old saying goes, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Or was it luck? I’m just sayin’…….


About theoldperfessor

I'm a college professor, teaching journalism and public relations classes at a small private university, and a freelance writer.
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