By Dakota Brecht
Down by 11, three and a half minutes to go, the game and the season all but over. As thousands of Golden Grizzly fans, myself included sat in Little Caesars Arena, I thought for sure our Golden Grizzlies were going to go down without a fight. The season would end just like any other in recent years, with a poor performance in a big tournament game.
Out of nowhere, the unthinkable happened. Oakland went on a 13-0 run in the last 3:25 of the game to take a two point lead with nine seconds remaining. The crowd was on their feet and cheering away like crazy. Just as the hopes of Golden Grizzly fan’s came to an ultimate high…they came crashing back to earth and a last second three pointer by the Horizon League Player of the Year ended everything.
While the Norse tackled Drew Macdonald, their hero in the final second, Oakland fans sat there in shock. From the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows, this one hurts.
I get it guys, the Youngstown State upset over Oakland in the tournament two years ago when the Black and Gold were almost a shoo-in for an NCAA tournament bid. When Kay Felder’s last second layup hung on the rim at the Palace and rolled out as time expired against Michigan State. Even the 44-43 loss last year to Cleveland State when our star-studded lineup would almost certainly have that game in the bag.
Three straight years, Oakland has made the short trip home from Detroit with a devastating one point loss. Golden Grizzly fans have dealt with this kind of heartbreak time and time again… but, this one is different.
As much as this last loss hurts, something else is different with this group of guys. Usually after a loss like this, a team not only has to deal with the heartbreak of the loss but also of their seniors who played their final game with that program. Not this year, senior day was cancelled due to there being not a single senior on roster. From top to bottom, the entire Golden Grizzly squad all have at least another year left. Captains Jaevin Cumberland, Brad Brechting and Xavier Hill-Mais are all red-shirt juniors with one more year of eligibility. All three players have announced they will return for their final season.
Freshman guards Tray Maddox Jr. and Braden Norris have made leaps and bounds this season and already fit into the system like seasoned vets. Guys like Karmari Newman and Kenny Pittman are all showing signs of promise and we can’t forget about fan favorite Babatunde Sowunmi. Like I mentioned earlier, this team, from top to bottom, can play as one complete unit.
Two dominant forwards down low who can score in the paint and play solid interior defense. Hill-Mais was named to the First Team All League squad and down the stretch, Brechting found his groove and averaged nearly 20 points a game.
Three point specialists Cumberland, Norris and Newman will continue to improve their shots and an exciting group of recruits headlined by Mcdonald’s All American CJ Gettelfinger will work their way into the Black and Gold soon enough.
Like I said… it’s going to be okay. Northern Kentucky loses Horizon League Player of the Year Drew Mcdonald. Wright State graduates four guys and Green Bay loses star player Sandy Cohen III. The Horizon League will be wide open next year and Oakland’s for the taking.
To the fans, student athletes and especially the Grizz Gang… the bright side of this heartbreaking loss will hopefully bring years of success for the Black and Gold.
Myself, my color commentator Dan Doebler and everyone else on staff at WXOU thank the players, coaches and fans for the great season of memories. Till next season Oakland, we can’t wait to see what it brings.
-Sports Director, Dakota Brecht