During the 31 days of March, we feature some of the greatest moments from the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in the history of ASN's family of schools. Today: Valparaiso.
Bryce Drew's shot heard 'round the world made March madder in 1998. It's the essence of the NCAA Tournament, an underdog rising up to slay Goliath.
Or as The New York Times headlined on March 14, 1998: "Little Valparaiso Turns Into a Titan Against Ole Miss."
Drew's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave 13th-seeded Valpo a pulsating 70-69 victory against No. 4 seed Mississippi, the first NCAA Tournament win in school history. The Crusaders made a remarkable play just to get Drew the ball. He caught a tippd pass from teammate Bill Jenkins off a full-court feed from Jamie Sykes, who made the throw over Mississippi's 6-4 Keith Carter.
''I just let it go,'' said Sykes, also a baseball player who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks. ''I didn't see much more than Carter's face.''
The sports moment judged the greatest in school history also put Valpo on the map. They were the talk of the tournament, as the Associated Press reported when the team returned to northwest Indiana:
"People didn't even know who Valparaiso was," said Jamie Sykes, whose three-quarter court pass set up Drew's game-winning shot on Friday. "Now everyone wants to be part of what we are."
Before we go any further, it's Val-puh-RAISE-oh, not Val-puh-RISE-oh.
And if you can't imagine this team winning it all, think back to the movie "Hoosiers," with Homer Drew as Gene Hackman and Bryce as Jimmy Chitwood. Against all odds, Hackman coaches Hickory High to the state championship.
"It's about a small school having a dream," Bryce Drew said at Monday afternoon's raucous pep rally for the team.
Valpo's season ended with a 74-68 loss to Rhode Island in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
But Drew had realized his dream of playing in the NCAA tournament for his father, Valpo head coach Homer Drew. That's why Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1994 passed up Stanford and Syracuse, among others, to stay home.
''I'm still wiping the tears from my eyes,'' Homer Drew said after his son's game-winner.
Meanwhile, Bryce admitted it was a shot he hit only about 50% of the time in practice and had become exasperated at his father's insistence that they keep practicing it.
''We practiced that play every day and wondered why,'' Bryce said. ''It's like, 'Why are we doing this, Coach?'''
Because father knows best.
Video courtesy of NCAA via YouTube