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Write Again…It was the perfect season

Sports. Athletics.

My days of playing, then coaching, are in my rear view mirror now.

There was a day, though, although now in my very senior years I really don’t keep up much with the world of sports, nor do I have the zeal for it to be honest.

I coached high school basketball, girls and boys, many years at Manteo High. I enjoyed it, of course, but the miles I racked up on that bus traveling across northeast North Carolina. 

Living on the Outer Banks, every school we played was a long way off. Especially so on the return trips on a dark winter’s night.

Let me, however, say just a bit now about college basketball – our state’s signature sport – and several of the most memorable games played.

Christian Laettner’s last second shot that snatched victory from defeat with Kentucky in a regionals final, keeping alive the Blue Devils’ hopes for a repeat as national champions, was beyond belief, almost.

NC State’s win against UCLA in the semi-finals of the Final Four was truly remarkable. That was back when the Bruins were the most dominant basketball teams over so many years, setting records for NCAA titles that will probably never be broken.  

Then the Wolfpack’s game winning goal as time expired in their win over Houston – the Phi Slama Jama team – to win the national championship, is now referred to as the “Game of the Century.”  

My pick for one of if not “the” greatest seasons of all time – of all time – and done in such a fashion that makes the telling of it almost impossible?

It was the Final Four in 1957.

The Carolina Tar Heels entered the tournament at 30-0, but were not the favorites to win.  

Oh, no. It was Kansas. The mighty Kansas Jayhawks, who had a sophomore name Wilt Chamberlain.  

That was in those days when the semi-final games were played on Friday, and the championship game the very next night.

There was no day of rest between games.

The ‘Heels played Michigan State, and prevailed after three overtimes. That’s three overtimes, folks.  

The next night’s opponent, as predicted, was the Jayhawks. Carolina entered the game as significant underdogs. Kansas was favored by fourteen points.

Remember, now, the boys in blue had played a truly contested three overtimes game the night before. With even less than a full 24 hours rest, they were at it again.

Some of you remember the game, but I suspect most of you don’t.

It was a low-scoring game, and it went into three overtimes too. That’s six overtimes in two nights, y’all. Never been done before or since.

The outcome was not sealed until the very last couple of seconds when a feed into Wilt was batted away.

Carolina won 54-53. The climax to a perfect 32-0 season.  

Perfection.

And the memories linger still.