Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Moments of magnitude

Perhaps for a moment, or two, Dee Dee Jernigan considered the magnitude of what she was about to accomplish.

It was a layup, a shot she'd made countless times during her college basketball career, in high school, on the playground, or by just tossing a wad of paper into the nearest receptacle.

But this was more than just a layup, or two.

It was a chance to clinch a signature victory over top-seed Stanford in the Sacramento Regional final, thus sending the Musketeers to their first Final Four.

But, instead of instinctively placing the ball into the basket like she'd done so many times before, Jernigan guided it. No, she Google mapped it and printed directions.

In the waning seconds of Monday night's game, Jernigan found herself alone under the basket. Not once, but twice.

She missed. Both times.

Then, in an almost pre-scripted result, Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen raced the length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup to give the Cardinal a 55-53 victory.

Pressure is part of the game. It's an obstacle to be overcome, like a 1-3-1 zone that seems impenetrable.

If it was easy, those 4-foot putts at Augusta would find the cup without fail.

Xavier's gut-wrenching defeat reminded me of another local moment of magnitude - last year's Frozen Four title game between Boston University and Miami University.

The Redhawks led 3-1 with less than one minute remaining, a seemingly insurmountable deficit in hockey terms. But the battle-tested Terriers rallied for three unanswered goals to win the national title in overtime.

Redhawks goalie Cody Reichard, who surrendered BU's winning goal as a freshman, has helped lead Miami back to the Frozen Four.

The next time he's thrust into a game-saving situation, Reichard will understand. He'll brush pressure off his red sweater like a speck of lint.

Unfortunately, Jernigan's college career is over. She won't get a chance to atone for Monday night, at least not on the basketball court.

I bet the next time the East Chicago, IN native attempts a layup, she'll drain it.

When life requires a greater degree of difficulty, Jernigan will be better prepared. She now knows what it takes, to hit or miss.

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