This past Saturday, I have the privilege of playing host to the Athletic Trainers from North Central college located right here in Lisle, because Benedictine hosted the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater was previously the NCAA Division III Title Holder, while North Central was third in the division. I began by supervising North Central’s Athletic Trainer(AT) and her two assistants (ATAs) while they provided pre-game rehabilitation and therapy for injured players. The tension was thick in the air with anticipation of the upcoming game, there was less than an hour an a half until they played yet another game that would decide their fate in the tournament, and they were playing the division champs!
After all of the equipment was set up, the AT, ATAs, and I went to go an sit in the bleachers to watch the two teams warm-up. After working several of the men’s home basketball games, I was used to a moderate amount of attendees at the games, but I had not expected so many to come to this game. The entire home side, the Eagle’s Nest student section, and half of the visitor’s side of the gym was overflowing with North Central fans, and UW-Whitewater was rapidly filling in the visitors section, cramming together in one big purple and white cluster. As the game started, both sides were immediately cheering for their team, and it was impossible to not get swept up in all of the excitement! The game took off in a flurry of squeaking shoes and three pointers. The score was close for most of the first half, but when UW was up 29-20, North Central had a surge of energy. If there wasn’t a basket being made, the ball was intercepted or stolen from UW and North Central racked up an impressive 8 points in the last 3 minutes of the first half; the score was 29-28 at half-time, and all of the people in the crowd were on their toes with excitement!
The halftime show was quite impressive, with both North Central and UW’s dance teams performing. I was pleasantly surprised with the difficulty level of both teams, and even more so with UW’s team size. Both teams showed impressive turns and leaps, but I have to say that UW’s choreography-whether from the number of dancers or not-was a little more complex, upbeat, and eye-catching that North Central’s. After the performances were over, there was still ten minutes for the fans to get some popcorn and soda or water. As time dwindled closer to the start of the second half, the teams returned to the court, as did the fans to their seats.
Luckly, no one got hurt throughout the course of the game, despite the many fouls called on both teams. In the second half of the game, among the numerous fouls called on North Central, a referee called a foul that was so entirely wrong, even the UW fans booed him. Needless to say, the foul was overturned and the ball was given back to North Central. Also during this half, a warning was given to one of UW’s coaches that told him he risked ejection from the game if he didn’t calm down. The score remained very close for the rest of the game, with one team occasionally overcoming the other, only to return to a shot’s difference in winning.
The game ended in a score of 66-60 in favor of North Central, advancing them on to the Regional Semifinals (AKA Sweet Sixteen) of of the NCAA Men’s Division III Basketball Tournament. As it stands, North Central only has to win three more games to make it to the Championship, and four to become the National NCAA Division III Men’s basketball Champions. Good luck to North Central College and their players on their upcoming game!