Column: Bison make memories en route to Big DanceSIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The destiny is fulfilled. The anointment is justified. The resume is complete.
By: Mike McFeely, The Forum
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The destiny is fulfilled. The anointment is justified. The resume is complete.
North Dakota State is going to the NCAA tournament.
How does that sound? NDSU is going to the Big Dance.
If there were any questions remaining about the Bison’s big plunge into Division I, they were answered by the unforgettable image of Ben Woodside standing atop a ladder at Sioux Falls Arena, snipping the net from the rim and waving the prize above his head as a throng of Bison fans roared.
It was the ESPN moment Joe Chapman, Gene Taylor, Tim Miles, Saul Phillips, Woodside and a whole slew of others dreamed about. The Bison are national news. The headline splashed across the Worldwide Leader in Sports after NDSU’s 66-64 victory over Oakland said, “N.D. State Is Dancing.”
“How many times does North Dakota get put up on that stage as a state?” Phillips, the overjoyed and exhausted coach, said. “The only time we’re on national TV is when the Weather Channel is there. This is huge.”
The heroics belonged to Woodside, whose jumper with 4 seconds left was the game-winner. But the prize — and the madness sure to follow for the next week — belongs to the entire lot of fifth-year seniors who came to Fargo on faith and were knighted as the group that had to fulfill the dreams of an entire fan base.
How often to people realize every expectation placed on them? Especially when they get exactly one chance at meeting the biggest expectation? Woodside, Brett Winkelman, Mike Nelson and Lucas Moormann did it. They did it all.
“We have a great group of guys,” Woodside said in the postgame press conference, the net he cut down hanging from his neck. “It’s a dream come true. It’s excitement more than relief. This was our goal from the beginning of the season and we realized our dream.”
Snapshots that won’t soon be forgotten:
- Phillips weeping with joy after the game, then bear-hugging Woodside and giving his star point guard a big kiss on the side of the head.
- Woodside sprinting around the court with his arms raised after Oakland’s Johnathon Jones missed a long 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to end the game, and then getting mobbed and tackled as Bison fans stormed the court.
- Phillips climbing the ladder to take his turn at cutting a strand of net and pumping his right fist in the air to celebrate, the tears long since replaced with intense joy.
- Woodside looking extremely agitated while he waited to be interviewed live on ESPNews, because he wanted to return to the raucous, once-in-a-lifetime celebration on the court.
“I’m just so happy for the kids and what they’ve accomplished,” NDSU president Chapman said as he watched the party from the side of the court.
“Remember, when these kids decided to come here the waiting period to get to the NCAAs was 13 years. Then we got it down to five years. Now they are going to the NCAA tournament. This is March Madness. This is a massive thing for NDSU.”
Another round of fun is just beginning. The Bison will find out who and where they play Sunday. First-round games are March 19 and 20 at sites scattered around the country. The run-up to those days will be a tsunami of buzz, excitement and anticipation unlike anything Red River Valley sports has seen.
Enjoy the ride. The Bison are dancing.
“It sounds wonderful. It’s the best feeling all us guys have ever had in basketball,” Woodside said. “We’ve dreamt about this from day one and we worked for this for five years. That’s a great headline — ‘We’re Dancing.’ ”
The Forum and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co. McFeely is a columnist for The Forum. Write to him at email@example.com.