Next stop, Final Four: Oregon Ducks make history at Moda
After a history-making win, the Oregon Ducks have earned their first-ever green-and-yellow ticket to the Final Four.
The University of Oregon's second-seed women's basketball team toppled the top-ranked Mississippi State University Bulldogs during the back-and-forth nail-biter to be stamped in the record books as the Portland Regional Final on Sunday, March 31 at the Moda Center.
The final score was 88-84 — but the crowd was on their feet well before Sabrina Ionescu sank the stepback three-pointer that boosted the Ducks to an insurmountable lead in the final 75 seconds of the game.
"All of the women are just terrific athletes," said Forest Grove fan Bob Russell after the win, "but I think Sabrina is one for the ages."
With a family pedigree that includes three bachelor degrees and a master's earned at U of O, the historic victory was a gratifying moment for Dolores Russell too: "They started out a little slower than the other team, but then they killed it."
It's true that the home-state crowd kept the faith alive during the tenuous first-half, which ended to Oregon's slight advantage 40-38 over MSU.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, displaying almost as much emotion Sunday as she did during her re-election victory speech last year, could barely stay in her courtside seat, and was later spotted leaping up to high-five supporters with higher seats.
Praising the Ducks' team spirit during a "dogfight" of a match, Brown said she couldn't miss the shoot-out after personally observing the Ducks trump the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Friday in Portland. The previous Sunday, March 24, she followed the team to Eugene for an epic smackdown of the Indiana Hoosiers, which ended 91-68 to the Duck's glee.
"This is an amazing game," she said at the end of the second quarter. "I came because they're going to win."
Eugene resident Zane Kesey (Yes, the son of that Kesey) was a less confident fortune-teller. "I was terrified," he said of the first half, which raised fears that the Ducks would once again breach the Elite Eight before being shut out of the finals, as happened in the past two consecutive seasons.
"I'm saw us work as a team, and I don't think we were able to stop," said Kesey. "I'm thrilled!"
A roaring crowd of about 11,500 watched the game live, many staying put after play ended as the Ducks cut down the nets and Ionescu was crowned the Portland Regional's most valuable player for scoring 22 points and seven rebounds.
The Ducks now head to Tampa, Florida for the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Final Four match-up on Friday, April 5 at Amalie Arena.
And while the attention of Portland's die-hard fans heads south, some in the stands are hoping the big win will kickstart efforts to return a Women's National Basketball Association team to Portland.
Though the Portland Fire only played three seasons between 2000 and 2002, Helen Forbes still remembers those brief days of glory fondly.
"Portland is ready for it," she said, noting that watching the Ducks play made her believe that "the whole city has been behind them."
Her friend, Suzanne Hidde, summed it up this way: "Great energy. Great sportsmanship. Great support."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.