Feb. 28, 2002
This will be my seventh West Coast Conference tournament behind the microphone and although I've yet to call an SCU win in the final, there are been many great games than unfolded before my eyes. It has been said that it's not the outcome that matters most, it is the journey to get there. Here are my top 5 WCC tournament memories:
#1: 2001 final Santa Clara vs. Gonzaga: The team showed more in defeat than most could ever show in victory. Santa Clara trailed by eight with a minute-and-a-half left, but still had a chance to tie after huge shots by Justin Holbrook and Kyle Bailey. Throwing the ball in from the same spot where the Broncos beat San Diego at the buzzer, Jamie Holmes off-balance three was short to send the Zags to "The Dance." The one bit of emptiness from that game was that Brian Jones never got a chance to take the final shot. After what he'd accomplished in his career, he deserved the opportunity. Team manager D.J. Frandsen wore a towel around his neck during the team's late season run and refused to wash it. The team didn't lose the game, they just ran out of time.
#2: 1999 WCC semi Santa Clara vs. Pepperdine: What I consider the best Dick Davey coaching job with a group of overachievers getting all the way to the tournament title game. With Brian Jones out for the year with a career-threatening knee injury, the Broncos sputtered all year with Delano D'Oyen running the point for the first time. However, after making big shots against LMU in the first round, D'Oyen made five threes in the upset of the Waves in the semi. Every one was off an on-ball screen at the top of the circle and the Waves were slow to get a hand up. The final shot taken by the Waves' Jelani Gardner was an airball wide left. Lorenzo Romar didn't make excuses for his team and said he had nothing but praise for Santa Clara for making shots. It was easily the high point in D'Oyen's career.
#3: 2001 semi Santa Clara vs. Pepperdine: Jan Van Breda Kolff said he thought a big play happened at the end of the first half when Jamie Holmes scored a basket to get the Broncos within 14. They had trailed by as many as 19 in the first and the Holmes basket gave them a glimmer of hope. In the 2nd, the Broncos made shot after shot and Kyle Bailey drilled a three to finally give his team the lead. B.J. was about 1-for-10 before jumping up and making a huge three during the run. The comeback matched the greatest in school history, they had twice previously come back from 19 down with Jones pivotal in each game. Thinking they deserved more, the Waves were sent to the NIT.
#4: 1998 semi Santa Clara vs. USF: Then associate commissioner Don Ott called it the greatest semi in tourney history. The stats were practically identical for both teams and the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. Neither team led by more than by five in the 2nd half. In the final 20 seconds, Craig Johnson chucked up a desperation three that was too long and the rebound corralled by Todd Wuschnig. Given another chance, Johnson nailed a left wing three to tie it up. Following two free throws by the Dons' Jamal Cobbs, Brian Jones jumper to tie it up bounced on the rim three times before falling off. I'll never forget the sight of Lloyd Pierce collapsed in heap on the floor after game. He'd been playing with a damaged foot and Vic Couch told me he didn't know if Pierce would have survived in the title game.
#5: 1998 first round Gonzaga vs. LMU: After being blasted by 30 in Spokane the week before, the 8th seeded Lions led by as many as 17 in the 2nd half before the Zags received the wake up call. In overtime, 5'4" Haywood Eady nailed a left win jumper to give the Lions a 78-76 lead with about 5 seconds left. Matt Santangelo calmly took the inbound pass and trotted up the right sideline, pulled up and drained a 3 at the buzzer. The come-from-behind win saved Gonzaga from being the 4th number-one seed to fall in the first round. They would fall to the 5th seed USF in the final.
The players dream as kids of cutting down the nets and for five seniors it's their final chance. I, too have a broadcast dream of how it ends. Luckily, I never run out of eligibility which gives me more chances to enjoy the journey.