Championship Game

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Notre Dame and UConn faced off in the 2014 championship, so this year was the rematch. Last year UConn won by 19 points.

Spirit was high before the game, with each team’s fans cheering loudly when their band played and when the players came on court to warm up.

Once the game started, Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead:

Notre Dame took an early lead.

But UConn fought back and was up at half time:

UConn was ahead at half time.

The second half was filled with drama. UConn would pull ahead by 10, then Notre Dame would go on a run and cut the lead to 5, but the Huskies players stepped up and built the lead back up to 10.

Finally, though, the game produced the same result as last year, although by a smaller margin. UConn won its third consecutive championship.

A Long Trip Home

As this post goes live, we will be at the airport preparing for the long flight home. From the maps in the airline magazine on the plane, my husband figured that the trip between Seattle and Tampa is probably the second longest flight one can take from one major city in the United States to another. (Seattle-Miami would be a little longer.)

It was an enjoyable quick trip, but we’ll be glad to get back to the Pacific Northwest. A temperature of 88 degrees F. is one reason we left St. Louis. And although there’s a lot of water around Tampa, there are no mountains. And I miss my mountain:

Mount Rainier

Women’s Final Four: Tampa

We are in Tampa, FL, for the Women’s Final Four College Basketball Championship. For the past 15 years or so we have made the Women’s Final Four a vacation trip. We go almost every year, regardless of what teams get through the earlier rounds of the tournament.

UConn Husky
UConn Husky

We are not completely disinterested fans, however. My husband and I both grew up in Connecticut, and although neither of us attended the University of Connecticut, we still root for its teams, particularly the women’s basketball team. Most years we get to see the UConn women at the Final Four. This year they are going for a threepeat: a third consecutive national championship.

But even if the UConn women weren’t here again this year, we’d still have a good time. I love college sports. I love the bands and the mascots and the partisan fans with their signs, costumes, and painted faces.

2014 was a particularly special year because, as we were in Nashville for the Women’s Final Four, the UConn men were winning the men’s championship. The day after the men won it all, the women did the same. The University of Connecticut is the only school that has ever had its men’s and women’s basketball teams win their national championships in the same year, and UConn has done it twice (2004 and 2014).

Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" Leprechaun
Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” Leprechaun

That won’t happen this year, but the women are still in the running for another trophy. Last night’s semifinal games were a mixed bag. The first game featured Notre Dame against South Carolina. The South Carolina women began the season ranked #1. They started out slowly in their game against ND but did manage to catch up. The second half, especially the last 10 minutes of that 20-minute period, was exciting. SC managed to pull ahead by one point near the end and had a good chance to win, but they failed to score with the final seconds ticking away, allowing ND to score a bucket and win by one point.

South Carolina Gamecock
South Carolina Gamecock
Maryland Terrapin
Maryland Terrapin

The second game between UConn and the University of Maryland was quite different. Maryland stayed close for a while, but UConn was up by 11 at halftime. Eventually UConn pulled away. The final score was Maryland 58, UConn 81.

The championship showdown comes tomorrow night. (Those of you who can’t be here can watch on ESPN.)

 

security guy
Subtle security guy circulating among crowd.

As always, immersing ourselves in the crowd outside the stadium before the gates opened offered lots of interest. A not-very-subtle security guy walked slowly past us, with his earwig and walkie-talkie. Don’t they know that, in 88 degree weather, in a crowd wearing shorts and tank tops, a guy in a suit, even a light-colored one, would stick out? Maybe that’s the point. Maybe his presence was an announcement: “Don’t try anything. We’re watching.”

And in addition to a couple of pairs of ordinary police circulating, I also saw a group of six more intimidating officers march by, 3 x 2. They were more heavily dressed, including their gadget-laden belts and heavy lace-up boots. These were not your ordinary Officer Friendly cops. They weren’t wearing helmets and didn’t have SWAT emblazoned across their backs, but they might as well have. I thought it prudent not to try to photograph them.

It’s not terribly surprising to see such sights at a time when a young man is on trial for bombing the 2013 Boston Marathon.

On a cheerier note, I marvel at the creativity and patience of the creator of this sand sculpture outside the arena:

sand image
Of course there must be sand in Tampa.