Jacksonville, Fla. — In the Georgia State-Baylor game column, I get kind of carried away. I’d apologize, except that I don’t really believe an apology is warranted. An ending like that — for late tuners-in, the Panthers outscored the No. 3 seed 13-0 over the final 2:40, with 12 of those points being scored by R.J. Hunter, the coach’s son — is the reason we watch the NCAA tournament.
Speaking of which: This is the 34th NCAA tournament I’ve covered, and I’ve seen a few things. I saw the Louisville-Kentucky Dream Game of 1983. I saw Lorenzo Charles’ dunk. I saw Villanova make 78.6 percent of its shots. I saw Keith Smart in the Superdome. I saw Duke upset Vegas. I saw both of Georgia Tech’s stirring Final Four runs. But, for heart-tugging stuff, I’ve never seen anything to beat this.
The coach’s son hits a 30-footer with 2.8 seconds remaining, inducing the coach — who’s working from a rolling chair due to the torn Achilles suffered in celebration after Georgia State won the Sun Belt tournament — to fall out of his seat. Who writes this script? Who’d believe it if anyone actually did?
As Baylor coach Scott Drew noted (ruefully), he has now been part of the two greatest father-son moments in NCAA tournament history: The Valparaiso hook-and-ladder against Ole Miss that had Bryce Drew, Scott’s brother, hitting the shot that made Homer Drew, Scott’s dad, a winner. (Scott was an assistant coach.)
We still see Bryce Drew’s shot every March — and it happened in 1998, meaning it’s 17 years old — and we’ll be seeing R.J. Hunter’s for years and decades, too. Three hours later, knowing full well what’s going to happen, it’s still stunning to see on replay. To see it happen live … well, it’s one of the reasons I love my job.
It’s not my intent to make this about me and not Georgia State, but there’s a 30-inch column on myajc that deals with the Hunters and the Panthers. One of the reasons folks like me get sent to events like this is to tell y’all how it felt to be there, and I’m here to say it was both a joy and a privilege.