Arike Ogunbowale Wins Notre Dame The Title

On April 1st, the women’s Final Four ended in a head to head close game. The game was Notre Dame v. Mississippi State, and ended with a score of 61-58. Guard, Arike Ogunbowale hit alter jump shot to win the game, earning Notre Dame their second NCAA title in basketball.

AJ Freithoffer, Managing Editor, Sports Editor

Notre Dame had possession with three seconds left after Mississippi States 6’7 center,  Teaira McCowan had committed her fifth foul while preventing Notre Dame from getting a clean layup. Then, according to the New York Times, the ball had been stolen by McCowan and passed to her teammate, Morgan William, but while running down the court, she collided with Marina Mabrey from Notre Dame. Mississippi fans and team all shouted that it was a foul on Mabrey’s part, but as William said later after the game, “No whistle, so it wasn’t a foul.” The ball had gone out of bounds due to William and Mabrey’s collision, making it Notre Dame’s ball. The pass went to Ogunbowale with one second remaining; she took two rapidly quick dribbles and went for a long and high jump shot over Victoria Vivians from Mississippi State. She was off balance and it was a leaning shot, but she still managed to make the shot with a tenth of a second remaining in the game. As the ball sunk into the basket the game was over, and Ogunbowale’s buzzer beater shot gave Mississippi no chance to come back. Notre Dame beat Mississippi with an ending score of 61-58.

Rewind to the first quarter and Notre Dame was down 35-3. Notre Dame was in a good lead on Sunday night, leading 10-4. But they lost their lead and were down 30-17 at halftime with only scoring three points in the second quarter. In the third, Mississippi State was still in the lead of 40-25, but the fourth quarter is where Notre Dame started to play the way they should have been playing the whole game. Notre Dame’s 6’7 Jessica Shepard led Notre Dame with 19 points making eight of ten shots. Shepard then hit a shot of McCowan from Mississippi state to make the score 43-41. New York Times described Notre Dame’s hard work scoring in the fourth quarter, saying, “It capped the biggest comeback in the final since the women’s N.C.A.A. tournament began since 1982.”  Notre Dame’s coach, Muffet McGraw, in an interview after the game said, “We just kept fighting, and thank you, Jesus, on Easter Sunday.”

Teaira McCowan was disqualified from the game due to the high amount of fouls she had committed, so Notre Dame made a strategy, which was to get the ball up to Shepard, who was leading the team at the time. Jackie Young, guard for Notre Dame, feared that she would cause a turnover if she tried to get the ball to Shepard. So, instead, she waited until Ogunbowale ran in front of her and played her the ball. Since she had only made one of ten shots in the first half, Ogunbowale was determined to do better in the rest of the game. When Young passed the ball to Ogunbowale and she went up for that final shot Young said, “ I knew it was going in,” according to the New York Times. McGraw, on the other hand, was not really sure if the shot was going to go in. In the later interview after the game, McGraw mentioned, “It was kind of a desperation shot, with only three seconds left, she was our second option, but I knew she would get a shot off. When it went through I honestly could not believe that it went in.”

It was an exciting ending to the Final Four with both semifinal games going into overtime and Ogunbowale’s final shot with a tenth of a second left that decided the final game winner. Mississippi State, up 37-2 in the first half felt they had the win of this Women’s Final Four, especially from losing last year in the final, but Notre Dame came back and won the championship which left Mississippi State losing two consecutive years in a row. McCowan finished the game with 18 points and 17 rebounds for Mississippi State and Vivians finished the game with 21 points also for Mississippi State. With one minute, 57 seconds left in the game, the Bulldogs led 58-53. Notre Dame had not managed to get a three pointer yet but with one minute, 36 seconds left, Mabrey delivered a shot from beyond the arc and Young managed to drive in a turnaround jumper to to tie the score which left Notre Dame in a position to take the win. Notre Dame had four absent players because of injuries which included, four A.C.L. tears, a broken nose, a black eye, and three ankle sprains. McGraw included, “We just constantly focus on what we have, what can we do, who’s going to step up, how are the roles changing?”  They didn’t let the absence of a couple of their players bring them down from winning this championship. They played a hard and tough game, making an amazing comeback and winning the game for this years Women’s Final Four. According to the New York Times, “this was the first title for Notre Dame since 2001, ending a frustrating series of defeats in the championship game against Texas A&M in 2011, Baylor in 2012 and Connecticut in 2014 and 2015.”  

Nobody knew what the outcome was going to be of this game of two good teams battling for the championship. Mississippi State had a good lead, but Notre Dame came back and tied the game up. Nobody ever expected Ogunbowale to win the game for Notre Dame with her incredible buzzer beater shot. Notre Dame fought hard to win this game, and their perseverance and diligent fighting payed off and earned them this year’s Women’s Final Four victory.