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UNC Basketball: The Shot That Wasn’t

Because you can’t have dawn without the preceding darkness.

NCAA Men’s Final Four - Villanova v Oklahoma Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Consider this a warning: I’m going to talk about the end of the 2016 season. If you don’t want to be reminded, I understand, and in different circumstances I would likely agree with you. This in an exercise in catharsis, a reminder that no matter how bad things get, it can get better. Should you decide this isn’t for you, though, may I recommend a very interesting piece about how a shortened football season may look, or perhaps a hopeful look forward at the 2020-2021 roster? Like I said, I get it, and I’ll catch you next week.

I’m sure we all remember how it went down, and as such I promise to skim over the details. As for me, I was a little over 4,000 miles from Chapel Hill when it happened. Across the Atlantic Ocean, in a city that spoke a different language than I did, I was sitting alone at the desk in my bedroom. As the clock rolled past four o’clock on Tuesday morning, I watched my Heels play in the last game of the year, and play well enough to win. When Marcus Paige hit that shot, the shot that should’ve been the capstone of that year’s One Shining Moment, I celebrated—prematurely. After the clock hit zeroes, and the confetti fell on a celebrating Villanova team, I put my head on my arms and cried. My roommate, headed out for an early-morning walk, did his best to understand where I was coming from without really being able to grasp an American’s relationship to collegiate sports. Unable to sleep, for obvious reasons, I joined him on his walk until I had to get ready for class—a Finn and an American walking through a dawning Spanish city, one preparing for the day and one trying to forget the night.

That was a definite low point, and a feeling that I can remember like it was yesterday. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson deserved to win that title, and that shot deserved to be the one that gave the Heels the momentum necessary to take care of business in overtime. The Heels had easily played well enough to win, and to come so close only made it hurt worse.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I say all of that to say this: maybe it was necessary. Maybe it was what the 2017 team needed, to motivate them to do what they did. I know, at least for me, that is made the next season’s result all the more sweet. I went from crying at my desk in Spain to jumping over bonfires on Franklin Street in the span of a year, and that kind of high is only possible thanks to the lows that came before.

Sometimes we have to focus on the good things rather than the bad, the Theo Pinsons rather than the Kris Jenkins redacted; the things that we can still hope for. We may be in a low point at the moment, but this hardship will only make it that much sweeter when we finally make our way out of it.