Every Philadelphian thought it happened again. Within arm’s reach of a championship, to have it ripped away at the final moments. That was thought process when Marcus Paige leaped, double clutched, and nailed a deep three pointer to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left in Monday night’s National Championship game. It would become a shot that would be shown for years to come, the shot of the tournament, and give North Carolina another National Championship.
It would be yet another dreadful year for Philly sports fans. The Phillies appearing to be bottom dwellers once again in the National League, the Eagles an absolute debacle, and the 76ers being losing 60-plus games the last three seasons. So why would the city of Philadelphia get a victory? Sure, Villanova has had a number of impressive seasons in recent years, but in this town if you aren’t winning championships, you are irrelevant.
I’m sure that after Paige hit his final three pointer, many Philadelphians turned the game off. They knew it was over. They knew that Philadelphia was not destined to win. That they were underdogs and always will be. But, not so fast…
Coming into Monday night, North Carolina was a heavy favorite. They were picked by most of the “experts” to win and win fairly easily. However, from the tip it looked as if it would be Villanova finally dominating and being world class. They were swarming defensively, getting every loose ball, and shooting the lights out as they did all tournament. But, it was North Carolina doing what they did all tournament. They went into the half leading by 5, as the Tar Heels usually played a close first half, and they were expected to find a way to build their lead and put away the Wildcats.
Yet, it was Villanova who appeared to put the game away. They led by 10 with just under five minutes to go. Philadelphia began to celebrate. Cue Marcus Paige. The senior scored or assisted on eight of North Carolina’s final 10 points to bring the Tar Heels all the way back to tie the game. Overtime was evident. Momentum was on North Carolina’s side. Philadelphia had blown another chance at glory.
So what can Jay Wright say to his team? He had never beaten North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Why would this be any different? Why would this be the end of Villanova’s “March Sadness”? It was just so fitting for North Carolina to win. It was such an emotional season with Roy Williams battling health issues, Paige bringing his coach to tears with his senior day speech, and the team capturing both the ACC regular season and tournament championships. This was just such a Philadelphia way to lose.
Well, when you have a guy in Ryan Arcidiacono who has been a team captain since his freshman year, an experienced team that has felt this agony of defeat before, and the ability to shoot the basketball from just about anywhere in the front court, it is never over. With the clock running out, a handoff from Arcidiacono to Kris Jenkins, and the rest can be summed up best by Jay Wright; “Bang.” Paige’s chapter in basketball history, ripped out and replaced in the matter of 4.7 seconds.
In a sports year where Philadelphia needed a victory, they won a championship in one of the most unlikely places. The heroes were found in a small Roman Catholic University roughly 15 miles west of center city. They were nearly discounted from the city, turned to Philadelphia basketball legends. When they needed it the most, the city found their shining moment.