|Villanova set for 1st Final Four since '85|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 March 2009 12:24|
At the previous night's team dinner, he kept one hand on the fork and the other on the rock. And sleep? Well, what few winks he caught, Reynolds made sure the basketball was nearby, like a child who won't go to bed without his favorite toy.
Reynolds could play two more games in the Final Four without a turnover if he protects the ball like that.
Villanova's 24-year Final Four absence is over all because of Reynolds' clear-path, half-court race to the rim that gave the Wildcats a 78-76 victory over Pittsburgh in the East Regional final.
``I'm still in shock,'' Reynolds said.
The stunning layup with a half-second left led all the local news shows Saturday night and was being replayed all the next morning. It will surely have a permanent spot on the March Madness highlight reel, on there with Tyus Edney's similar winner for UCLA in 1995.
``I think everybody wants to be in that situation where they hit that shot to advance to something more, something special,'' Reynolds said. ``For us, it was the Final Four. I still can't believe it.''
Villanova's charter flight home from Boston was delayed about two hours, but once the Wildcats were back on campus, they were greeted by nearly 1,000 delirious fans at the Pavilion. Coach Jay Wright, Reynolds, Dante Cunningham and other players addressed the crowd in a brief rally where they promised the tournament run wasn't over yet.
``We've got two more games to get,'' Wright said.
Wright told the crowd when he introduced Reynolds there was no one else he could have wanted to take that shot then the gutty point guard.
``The guy who's hit more big shots and made more big plays than anyone I could remember in Villanova basketball history,'' Wright said to cheers. ``There's not anybody on this team that wants to have the ball in his hands at the end.''
Reynolds said he was still coming back to earth. He heard a chuckle from the crowd when he told them the final play was ``the easy part.''
What he meant was it was a play the Wildcats always practice. Reggie Redding's inbounds pass to Cunningham was actually the fourth option on that play, but the ol' hook-and-ladder was flawlessly executed.
to the Final Four since coach Rollie Massimino led the program to its only national championship in 1985. Massimino has been a staple at Villanova's tournament games, beaming after games and feeling proud at what his former assistant has done.
Massimino declined Wright's offer to cut down the nets on Saturday night. Massimino wanted this year's Wildcats to enjoy the rare and sensational experience on their own.
In Minneapolis, 1985 most outstanding player Ed Pinckney watched the classic finish.
``Thank goodness Scottie Reynolds had enough confidence to take it the length of the court,'' said Pinckney, a Timberwolves assistant coach. ``It was just enjoyable watching them achieve such a great thing for them and the university. It was a lot of fun.''
Villanova plays the winner of the North Carolina-Oklahoma game Saturday in Detroit.
This is Villanova's fourth Final Four, though the first two should come with an asterisk.
The Wildcats played in the very first NCAA tournament in 1939 when only eight teams made the field, and their 1971 national runnerup appearance was officially vacated because Howard Porter signed with an agent before the season was over.
Then came ``The Perfect Game'' when the eight-seeded Wildcats knocked off Georgetown in 1985.
then beat back-to-back members of the basketball royalty club in UCLA and Duke, and finished off the Panthers on Saturday.
``This team is capable of doing big things,'' Cunningham said. ``The potential is there to do this again.''
The Wildcats returned to a hotel stuffed with fans and alumnus and spent part of Saturday night posing for pictures and signing autographs. Kids rushed the court on Sunday and players paused during the rally for a smile and a snapshot with the smallest Wildcats.
Wright said he stayed up late, popped open a beer, put on the game film and read the congratulatory texts rolling in from around the country. Phillies star Jimmy Rollins, Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown, Eagles running back Brian Westbrook and even ex-Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie were on the All-Star roll call of well wishers.
``I wouldn't want to coach anywhere else,'' Wright said.
Wright and the Wildcats were set for a Monday morning team breakfast and then head back to work. The Final Four prep was about to begin.
But Sunday was a time to flash the V's, sing the fight song with their fans and relish one of the greatest shots in Villanova history.
``I've been dreaming about it since I was a youngster,'' Reynolds said.
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.