Arike Ogunbowale (Oo-goon-boo-wah-lay) shocked the world on March 30th to end the undefeated run of UCONN, and Sunday night, she did it again. Whether it was pure luck, or her never ending fight to earn her spot in NCAA history, she pulled through for her team and handed them a victory that they have been fighting for since 2001.
“I know I just had to shoot it at the last minute,” Ogunbowale said about her buzzer beater shot against UCONN. “I didn’t want to give them a chance to get the ball. I went into Mamba mentality. Kobe’s here, so that’s what I tried to channel.”
And that she did.
Playing against last tournament’s winner, Mississippi State, the Fighting Irish knew what was at stake. Earning the Most Outstanding Player award and scoring 18 points by the end of Sunday’s game, Ogunbowale showed the Ohio crowed what March Madness is really about.
“We just kept fighting, and thank you, Jesus, on Easter,” Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw stated. The score was tied between the Fighting Irish and the Bulldogs. With only three seconds left on the clock, Notre Dame’s possession had an opportunity to take this one home.
The inbound pass was placed in Ogunbowales’ hands, she then took two dribbles to the right, and she did what she knew best to do. Shoot it.
The crowd was on the edge of their seats as they saw the high arching ball head closer and closer to the basket. Then, it finally went into the net. She did it again, but this time, she won the whole thing.
“I knew it was going in.” Ogunbowale confidently stated.
But that three-point shot was bigger than her. Overcoming a hard season, Notre Dame prevailed and fought hard for their place on the throne. The team experienced multiple knee injuries and lost four players due to injuries in their ACL.
“We actually didn’t talk about it at all,” McGraw said about the abundance of injuries the team had faced this season. “We just constantly focused on what we have, what can we do, who’s going to step up, how are the roles changing?”
A disappointed Mississippi State faced their second consecutive lost in the NCAA tournament, losing last year to the South Carolina Gamecocks. Although the game was decided by a buzzer beater shot, Mississippi held a large lead over Notre Dame before the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
“Congratulations to Notre Dame,” Mississippi State Head Coach Vic Schaefer said. “Tremendous passion, a relentlessness, a toughness and a resiliency to that bunch. They’re to be commended for that.”