By Jimmy Durkin
Sunday, March 16th, 2008 at 10:16 am in Basketball.
That’s about the only adequate word to describe last night’s Division I championship game. Dominguez had been built up as this powerful machine from SoCal that couldn’t be stopped. Outsiders knew Mack was good — you don’t get to 31-0 without being good — but those “in the know” who looked at it objectively couldn’t see Mack winning.
Sure, based on raw facts, you had to be nervous. This was the best team Mack had seen all year. They played some very good competition, but nothing like this.
None of that mattered.
Mack came up in with a game plan. Coach Dwight Nathaniel did his homework and he knew how to beat this team. He told his boys to run and run and run and when they got done doing that … to go out and run some more.
Mack chased down every loose ball and by the time they had it in their hands, the rest of the team was already sprinting down court. The guard play was unbelievable. Rather than try to force passes into Dame and Mook, the guard trio of Q, Memo and Jesus were continually attacking the hole. They were driving to score, driving to dish and driving to sap the will away from Dominguez.
Coach Moe knew that by doing that, this was a game his team could win. One fear was Dominguez’s Jordan Hamilton catching fire from long distance. And yeah, he hit some early threes that could’ve spelled trouble. But not enough and the Dons didn’t get enough production from other players.
Truth be told, Dominguez really didn’t have much of an offensive attack … at all. Hamilton hit some threes and it used its size to get a bunch of follow up hoops. But if I were to try to describe their offense, I couldn’t even tell you what they did. They were an overmatched team on this night who had no idea what Mack House ball was like.
What a wonderful stage for the entire Mack Family to show what it is all about. The crowd was absolutely phenomenal and when Dame threw down his first dunk at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter, you knew they’d be rocking all night. And what was more classic than during the first TV time out when the Mack drumline made its grand entry into the arena. Classic, just classic.
It was at about the 1:00 minute of the fourth that reality truly started to sink in and to just hear and see that place start to go crazy was music to my ears. Having followed this team all season (I covered 13 of their 32 games), there was nothing like watching this fellas go out on top.
Some of my favorite moments that a lot of people probably didn’t notice:
• Coach Moe bleeding from his cheek after the game. He said he thought he caught the watch of one of his assistants when they threw their arms up after the win.
• Some 30 minutes after the game, after Mack finished taking pictures at the studio screen set up in the bowels of Arco Arena, Damon Powell was the last to leave that area … and did so on a full sprinting skip. Bouncing through the Arco hallways, all DP just kept screaming with a 5-year-old’s pitch, “We won state, we won state, we won state, we won state.” I threw up my hand for a high-five as he passed by me.
• Frank Otis, aka Mook, aka The President, may just one day really be the president … or maybe the mayor of Oakland. One of the most genuinely polite guys you’ll ever meet. There he was, after all the players had left the court, out there by press row getting programs handed to him to autograph. Since he was standing next to me, I had to quip in “Look at Frank big-timing it.” About another 45 minutes later, as I was getting ready for a celebratory toast in honor of Mack, there was The President and his family walking into the same Applebees. If only he were 21, I would’ve had to have offered to buy him a drink.
• I already mentioned above the grand entry of the drumline, but it’s worth mentioning again. Oakland showed up tonight for this game in a big way. You could’ve sworn we were at the Oracle Arena. They helped bring an intensity that once Mack punched Dominguez in the mouth, there was no slowing these guys down. Every one who was in attendance played a part in this victory. So for all you folks that were there, please know that you were a big part of this win.