Schuck's Clipboard

Life will go on, but it will never be the same

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 2, 2017 12:10 am

Late Saturday night, with deadline approaching or in some cases having passed, newspaper page designers, headline writers and sports reporters in Connecticut and Mississippi were tasked with summing up one of the most monumental upsets in women's college basketball history.

Their challenge was to find words that would be as succinct and powerful as those Dennis Mahoney used decades ago.

That was quite unfair. Mahoney summed up shock and despair better than anyone ever has with one simple sentence.

"Life will go on, but it will never be the same," Mahoney wrote.

Mahoney was covering the Class AA state boys basketball tournament for The Herald-Whig in 1982 when Quincy High School carried a 64-game winning streak into the state semifinals against Chicago Mendel Catholic High School. Mahoney was tasked with chronicling the Blue Devils' coronation as back-to-back state champions and tell the story of a dynasty.

Instead, he had to write about heartache.

The Blue Devils hadn't lost since the 1980 sectional championship game, and no one expected it to happen in Champaign. Quincy was 30-0 and hadn't been seriously challenged in the postseason when it reached the state tournament.

The 17-point victory over Danville in the super-sectional was preceded by three victories in which the average margin of victory was 36 points. In the quarterfinals, the Blue Devils dispatched Lisle Benet Academy 65-45.

Another romp to the title seemed like destiny.

In 1981, when the Blue Devils went 33-0 and were considered the best high school team in the nation, they won their three state tournament games by an average of 28 points.

Mike Hampton and Mendel Catholic had other ideas.

With the Blue Devils leading by a point in the final minute of regulation, the Monarchs struggled to generate any offense, nearly leading to a steal by Dennis Douglas. However, the ball slipped through Douglas' grasp, squirted through his legs and went out of bounds to give Mendel Catholic possession.

Hampton took advantage of the opportunity, knocking down a 25-foot jumper with two seconds remaining for a 53-52 lead.

Since the horn hadn't sounded before calling timeout, Quincy was given a chance for one final shot. It nearly worked as Bruce Douglas caught a length-of-the-floor pass from his younger brother, Dennis, near the rim, but his shot rolled off the side of the rim.

The streak was over, and the air of invincibility gone.

"It was the first time we surprised ourselves that we weren't able to win," said Bruce Douglas, the All-American guard who went on to star at the University of Illinois.

The University of Connecticut women surely felt the same way Friday night.

Facing a team they had beaten by 60 points in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Huskies saw their record-setting 111-game win streak come to an abrupt end with a 66-64 overtime loss to Mississippi State in the national semifinals.

Saturday morning's front page of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant blared the news with "STUNNED" as its banner headline. On the front page of the Courant sports section, the headline read "OVER AND OUT." No matter where UConn basketball fans turned, they were met with the harsh reality the winning streak and the shot at a national championship were gone.

They had to come to grips with this: Life will go on, but it will never be the same.