Sixty-four women’s basketball teams were invited to the NCAA Division I post-season tournament in 2017 in the annual ritual that is known as March Madness in the USA. But after two thrilling games in 16 different host cities around the country the Sweet Sixteen winners of those first two games were scattered to the winds like a bag of M&Ms with peanuts spilled on the floorboard of a moving vehicle into the 4 Regional host cities of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Stockton, California; and Lexington, Kentucky.
The hoop dreams of the young women on those Sweet Sixteen teams, their coaches and their fans were riding high as they battled it out in the regionals – but when the dust settled and those two elimination games were finished the Final Four teams were decided. The University of Connecticut a/k/a UConn, Stanford University, Mississippi State University and the University of South Carolina were the regional winners that would emerge from the Elite 8 to move on to Dallas, Texas for the Final Four. The race was on as fans began to scramble for tickets to the semi-finals and finals in Dallas.
Pretty and I were in New Orleans at a literary conference when South Carolina’s women played their regional games in Stockton, California so we were confined to watching the Quinnipiac and Florida State victories on TVs in sports bars in between the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival events and the Chris Rock concert. As soon as the Florida State game was over, though, Pretty joined the scramble for the Dallas tickets through the Gamecock Club…and the rest, as they say, is history.
The National Anthem view
from the Gamecock section on Sunday night
(we were there when the doors opened at 3:30 Dallas time)
The hysterically happy fans!
The hysterically happy team!
All-Tournament Team Member Allisha Gray
Gray, Gray, Gray – you are Pretty’s favorite
(and have been her favorite since the season began)
All-Tournament Team Member A’ja Wilson
Tournament MVP, All-American in 2017
All That to the Gamecock team and their fans since she rolled out as a freshman three years ago and helped us get to the Final Four in Tampa her first year. This girl lays it all on the line every game every season and is, in my humble opinion, Number One. She ignites and inspires her teammates to play their very best by her example, and that, my friends, is the mark of a true champion.
Champions beget champions, and no one is more responsible for the victories in Dallas than Head Coach Dawn Staley.
Cut ’em down, Coach
and may it be your first of many
Alas, the team and most of the fans had left the building, but Pretty and I found one solitary remaining security man to take a final picture in the American Airlines Arena.
And then we were done.
Yep – the last car standing
By the end of the game and festivities, I was worn out and ready to retire to the La Quinta king-sized bed to reflect on the events of not just the day but the past two weeks of our ride from Columbia to New Orleans and on into Texas. What a country…what an experience…what a way to end my 70th. year.
But Pretty was having none of it. So off we went to our old stomping grounds the Nodding Donkey where we met Super Gamecock Fan Matt Tischler who we’d seen Friday night at the Stanford game. He flew to Phoenix for the men’s Final Four game on Saturday and then flew back to Dallas Sunday for the women’s game. Whew! I was exhausted just thinking about how tired he must be, but he wasn’t too tired to meet us for a beer to celebrate. The Nodding Donkey patrons cheered us when we walked in.
I wondered how I knew all these people – and then realized it was the Gamecock gear they were cheering. Fabulous.
Matt was holding me up by the end of the night
When Pretty drove me back to the motel, we saw the Dallas skyline one more time, and this is what we saw…
And thanks to Pretty for taking most of the pictures in the blog today, driving us all over the country for the past two weeks, lugging the suitcases in and out of motels, walking two very bad dogs who loved to annoy her by getting out of their leashes in the most dangerous locations – and still having the energy to sing country music songs with me when we were lucky enough to find the classics on the radio in the car. Pretty is Number One in my book.
We’ll be back in Columbia today. Stay tuned as we are no longer able to procrastinate packing.