Small ball seven fights until the very end

By: Keith Raad – Sports Editor

Looking left and right at Nationwide Boulevard, I switched the radio dial between stations on FM.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” hit the final “thunder only happens when it’s raining,” and I hummed along.

Jon Kostoff and I took a left and alongside us was Nationwide Arena where Dayton would be playing the University of Oklahoma in a just a few hours for a chance at the Sweet Sixteen.

The final notes of the song faded into the next one.

Immediately, I knew the run would come to an end.

The small ball seven, defying death until the very end, became Tony Soprano in the final episode of “The Sopranos.”

As magical as the 2014-2015 season has been, reality sets in eventually. Of the 68 teams who play between March 17 and April 6, 67 of them lose.

The odds are against every.

But for 10 minutes of the second half in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32, Dayton did it again. A 49-40 lead with 13:13 to play, a freshman Darrell Davis sunk 3-pointers like nobody’s business, and a raucous crowd surrounding the hardwood made hearts beat faster. The small ball seven was going back to the Sweet Sixteen for a second consecutive season. It was all happening again.

As quickly as it happened, it was over. The turnovers built, the 3-pointers became bricks and the whistle didn’t blow their way.

We never wanted “The Sopranos” to end. But it did. We knew that it was the final season, but we wanted the final episode to continue. One more second, please.

But all for naught. Oklahoma came back 49-40 to outscore Dayton 32-15.

“I’ll remember this season for as long as I live regardless of how long I coach,” head coach Archie Miller said. “There will never be a team of seven people duplicate what we did, win 27 games with six scholarship players, a freshman, three sophomores. It will never be done again.”

The Flyers defied death countless times.

They lost Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson, and won 20 of 27 games.

They lost senior guard Ryan Bass and won 19.

They beat No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth University on the road.

They trailed Boise State University by seven with 3:43 to play, and won.

They snuck into the NCAA Tournament as the final at-large team, and were 10 minutes away from the Sweet Sixteen.

“Yeah, I’m sad,” Miller said. “When you’re happy with your players and you love coaching them, you want to keep going.”

But the hit man walked out of the bathroom. He popped Tony Soprano. It was only a matter of time.

And as the black screen emerges and the credits roll, shock kicks in. Why? Because you were on the bench. You were the sixth man. You’re sad because you loved them. You wanted to keep going. We all did.

But what a ride it was.

In the last two seasons, Miller and the Flyers went 5-2 in the NCAA Tournament. In the real world, that’s preposterous. It’s beyond amazing.

But that’s what this program is. It takes over Buffalo, New York. It takes over Memphis, Tennessee, and it pissed people off when taking over Columbus, Ohio. The name Dayton stuck in the mind of the nation last season in the run to the Elite Eight, and it shocked them once more this season.

Jordan Sibert, Scoochie Smith, Darrell Davis, Bobby Wehrli, Kyle Davis, Kendall Pollard, Dyshawn Pierre.

When my buddy Jon sent our Flyer Radio broadcast back to the studio for the final time, I had to queue up our music to fill the space between our feed and the station back at home.

As I pulled up the levels on the iTunes playlist, one that is random across 2,000 songs, a two-minute tune finished the season with perfect poetry.

“Song sings inside me, reminds me of this. Just don’t take darkness for granted, without it light can’t exist, and knowing’s more than enough. It’s more than enough.”

Elizabeth and the Catapult’s “More Than Enough” capped off the magic and the power of the mens season.

We’ll never forget this season. It’ll be a story in our back pocket for decades.

This team defied death, until the very end.  And that’s more than enough.


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