I’m going to change things up a bit for this series, as most of the football games I’ve been to have been pretty miserable. So I’m going with a women’s basketball game, since most of those have been very exciting. I’m also going with one from earlier this year, since I can’t get the ending to this one out of my head.
On February 2nd, nearly everyone at Gill Coliseum had given up hope for a win. And the Beavers really needed one. After starting the season highly ranked, and being one of the last undefeated teams in the country, the Beavers season had started to falter. A sweep by Oregon and a loss to Stanford had sent them tumbling down the rankings, and now they were in a rematch against the team that had handed them their first loss of the season, Arizona State.
Things didn’t start well, with ASU grabbing an early lead, and going up by 11 against a listless Beaver offense. Destiny Slocum was still scoring, but the rest of the team couldn’t hit a shot. The second quarter was almost worse. The Beavers didn’t manage to put much of a dent into the Sun Devil lead, and late in the quarter starting forward Kennedy Brown went down with a no contact injury to her knee.
I think everyone in the arena immediately suspected the worst, and a few days later would be proved correct; Brown would miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear. It wasn’t even halftime and the game, and the season, felt lost.
However, the Beavers are much grittier than I am. They came out fighting, and Destiny Slocum and Kat Tudor managed to erase the ASU lead in short order. A few minutes later, a Slocum three gave OSU their first lead of the game. ASU grabbed the lead back swiftly, but now the fight was on.
The Sun Devils held the lead, for most of the fourth, but the Beavers grabbed it with under two minutes to go, and it looked like the comeback was on. But the Sun Devils fought back and held the lead with a minute to go. Those final few minutes were amazing to experience in person; with every change in the Beavers’ fortunes, the crowd shifted instantly, going from roaring to silent to roaring again, waves of sound crashing against the court.
So here we are; with 10 seconds to go Slocum hits a shot to tie the game up. The Beavers should be able to get to OT if they can make a stop. They can’t, Ja’tavia Tapley makes a shot with 3 seconds left to go. The Beavers needed a miracle, and they got one, with Maddie Washington setting up Kat Tudor for a perfect layup to get Oregon State back to even with 0 seconds on the clock. It looked like OT was back, until one of the most bizarre sequences I’ve ever seen in a sports occurred.
It turned out there were still tenths of a second left on the clock, and a severe miscommunication on Arizona State’s inbound gave the Beavers back the ball. Aleah Goodman made the inbound pass to Mikayla Pivec, who instantly heaved the ball into the air. It bounced around the rim, the buzzer went off, it kept bouncing for what felt like a solid 15 minutes, and then dropped in. Beavers win.
The season didn’t pan out as hoped. The Beavers went on a four game losing streak after that win, though the team would bounce back and finish with a winning Pac-12 record before falling in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament to Stanford. They looked on the cusp of getting a top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a few home games, before Covid-19 derailed the whole world, athletics included.
It was the final season for Mikayla Pivec and Kat Tudor, among others. It also ended up being Destiny Slocum’s final season, as she elected to transfer to Arkansas shortly after the season ended. It was the end of the era for the team, one focused on aggressive passing and amazing perimeter shooting, and the beginning of a new one, with Taylor Jones and Kennedy Brown looking to lead the team into the future.
We never got the final NCAA Tournament run this team deserved, never got to see how deep they could go. I would have loved to see if Pivec and Slocum and the rest of the team could have clutched out some amazing wins against top class opponents. We never got that, but we got this game, and its what I’ll remember when I think of this team.