Two days after my first NCAA tournament game I went back to Spokane to see my second. All of the people who thought that the #4 seed had no shot against the #13 seed were now predicting the demise of Purdue by the #5 seed Texas A&M. After starting the pod with three teams out of the eight with the nickname ‘Aggies’ Texas A&M was the last one standing. After making the cross state trip once it didn’t seem as bad the second time. Washington really is a beautiful state. About halfway on my journey I crossed the Vantage Bridge over the Columbia River. This is near Vantage, Washington which was well named. It is a beautiful part of the state that I stopped at on both of my trips.
Purdue was the second game of the day this time. I had to sit through the Michigan State game against Maryland first. Of course if you have seen that game you know that it was well worth watching. In fact I did not think that any game could top that one. At one point the game was actually pretty boring. Michigan State had a 16 point lead in the second half, and was cruising. Kalin Lucas went down with an injury though, and Maryland came storming back riding the back of Greivis Vasquez. With six seconds left in the game Vasquez put Maryland up one with a tough bucket. Michigan State brought the ball down the floor and hit Korie Lucious for a three pointer as the buzzer sounded for the win. It was a great game. As a Big Ten fan I was rooting hard for the Spartans. I never really liked them before that weekend in Spokane. The fans I met were great though, and I have a new found respect for the team. That was one of the greatest games I have seen in person.
I did say one of the greatest. If you consider all the variables involved the next game that day had to be the greatest that I have seen. Purdue was still an underdog despite being the higher seed. Purdue was actually down 11 points with sixteen minutes left in the game. They came storming back to actually take the lead four minutes later. This was one of the toughest games I can remember with neither team wanting to back down. It was so tough in fact that it could not be decided in regulation. Texas A&M had a shot to win it in overtime, but JJ had a key block with about thirty seconds left. Purdue had the ball with the same chance, but Smooge was stripped to set up overtime. The game was tight throughout overtime leading to one of my favorite sports moments. With 4.2 seconds left Chris Kramer drove past a 6′-7″ player and a 6′-9″ player to score the game winning basket.
As you can see above Chris used the rim as his friend to get his shot off. A legendary moment from a legendary player. Purdue had called a timeout with about 10 seconds left in the overtime period. I had put my camera down, but I was so nervous I couldn’t stop shaking. I really don’t think that it is right that someone should get that nervous over a sporting event, but hey the title of this blog is Confessions of a Sports Junkie. I picked my camera back up to try and calm myself down. If I concentrated on getting a good picture I could keep my mind off of what the stakes were. I snapped the picture at just the right time it turned out. I was extremely lucky to get the picture that I did. Maybe it was just my nerves that hit the shutter button. No matter what I lucked out, and took one of the best pictures of my life. I love how you can see the determination on the face of Bryan Davis as he tries to get to the ball. You can see that he was only stopped by the rim. You can also see how turned around Kramer had Nate Walkup. The blue tongue from the sports drink during the timeout by Kramer is also a nice touch. I will probably go a long time before I take a better picture than this.
That shot by Kramer put the Boilers up by two 63-61. Texas A&M had a shot to win or tie, but it fell just short. Purdue had won, and was going to Houston to play Duke in the Sweet 16! I was so excited at that moment that I made the horrendous decision to go to Houston the next week. The young couple in front of me had already disclosed that they lived there, and I jokingly asked if I could stay with them. I bet they are still having nightmares about that. I left the arena on a high that I would not come down from for quite some time. In fact I was still humming ‘Hail Purdue’ as I walked into my room in Seattle.
Here are some more pictures from that day in Spokane. Some of them have been on this site before, but some have not.
(This is part of the continuing process of reliving some moments that did not make this blog. I quit blogging for a short period last winter because I felt that I was spending way too much time on this blog for the few people that were following it. Thankfully I was talked into blogging again, and have not quit since. As if by chance the amount of people that follow the blog increased as well. As always thank you for stopping by.)