The Pepin crowd which had snake-danced its way in total delirium to the mahogany rail at Mr. Ups kept high-fivin' and toasting 'The Boys' and the miracle comeback finish with but 1.8 showing on the clock. They had played great but so did The Bombers and there wasn't much room for error. And when Ithaca stripped the ball and then drained that last jumper to go up one, with just six ticks left, the crowd was stunned and silent. With the season pretty much on its last legs it was a damn good thing those legs belonged to Joey. Just like he did against Scranton last year in this same round,when he took it coast to coast to tie it with 3.9 on the clock, he was large and in charge. Having seen him perform this magic once, the view from the skybox was guarded but optimistic. Ithaca couldn't get a man in front of him and when he really got banged at the left side of the key, the moment was set. Poise, optimum performance under maximum pressure, had just been given a curtain call. Now it was time for the encore. Both ends of a one-and-one to avoid OT. Or at least the first to avoid the beginning of the golf season, and put some life back in the season. Pepin was quieter than the library on a Saturday night, only a few rustles from new fans breathing into paper bags. On the rim and in. A quick cheer. More silence. Then the 'OhMyGod' pandemonium. The stands were shaking. The crowd was chanting "...Jo -ey...Jo- -ey!" It was the greatest, absolutely most memorable moment at Pepin that this writer has ever seen.
They were all heroes. Ithaca decided to open by making Jake beat them. He was happy to oblige from the gitgo. And now has earned his way back to Salem. Nolan did a good job trying to control Russo and Warech, their go to guy late in the clock. Jensen has grown with each passing week and makes big plays on the floor and snares critical rebounds. Their triangle and two handcuffed Pedro because they sagged a guard onto him, but he fought his way through it and was cool as a cucumber from the line. Going back to Salem, The Boys are as ready for the challenge of beating NorthCentral. According to the pundits, they are athletic, deep and physical. That translates to very good, and what else would you expect in the Elite Eight. I'm already on record with d3hoops- not on the message boards- but right to the top- that TheBoys aren't backing down in any physical confrontations. That you got to believe, we can survive Friday night's battle, which gets us to presumably TheLordJeffNation and "rematch heaven". With Atlanta on the line and a shot at the national title, there would be nothing sweeter than sending Toomey and His Pals home.
If NorthCentral gets the better of Midd- there will be disappointment. Understandable, but it is tempered by the unbelievable ride that this team and these seniors have provided -104 wins and 18-and-6 in elimination games- for all of us. Either way they have been great, and JeffB. and his staff has had them ready to play - no excuses -every single night. You couldn't ask for more. Safe travels, I'll see you all at the Civic Center, manana.
And remember: " down The Alibi stairs, without spilling a drop; off the conductor's cap on ThePantherExpress; past the lamaze sessions, and over the d3hoops broadcast table; nothin' but net!" Be well. Clubbo.