March 16, 1998 in Sports

Truly, This Is Madness Valparaiso Writing Its Own Fairy Tale

Alan Schmadtke Orlando Sentinel
 

Cinderella lives in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s not Florida State. For the Seminoles, midnight sounded Sunday afternoon.

Thirteenth-seeded Valparaiso found overtime gasoline for its magical ride through the Midwest Regional, eliminating stunned FSU 83-77 before a delighted 13,369 at The Myriad.

Valparaiso grabbed three key rebounds down the stretch, one that led to overtime and two in the extra period that propelled a Mid-Continent Conference team to a regional semifinal for the first time since 1986.

“All we kept saying was it’s not time for Cinderella to go home yet,” Bob Jenkins said. “It has hit me. It’s a blessed thing.”

Not for the Seminoles (18-14), who lost a chance at their third trip to the Sweet 16 in seven seasons.

Awarded a controversial spot in the 64-team field, they had a regional semifinal game in their sights but saw it slip away.

“We got away from our ball movement in the overtime,” Terrell Baker said. “We stopped attacking…. When they were down three, they had no life in their eyes. They were down. Then in the overtime, they had all that energy.”

With a 13-game winning streak, Valparaiso advances to Friday’s regional semifinal against No.8 Rhode Island, which upset top-seeded Kansas 80-75.

The Crusaders, the lowest seeding left in this tournament, became the only the second No. 13 team to reach the Sweet 16s (Richmond, 1988).

What spun FSU’s head was that it had Valparaiso (23-9) on the ropes after a 15-0 run put them ahead, 27-19, but could not put the determined Crusaders away, not even with Bryce Drew (22 points) scoreless in the final 9 minutes of regulation.

Behind Randell Jackson (16 points) and Kerry Thompson (16), FSU rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second half to hold a three-point lead in the final minute. Again, it could not close the deal.

“We didn’t take them lightly at all, but I never felt we weren’t going to win,” senior LaMarr Greer said. “We knew it was going to be tough, but we just felt like we were playing well enough to keep going. But we made too many mistakes.”

“We didn’t play with poise through some crucial mistakes,” FSU coach Steve Robinson said.


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