By ZACH ZANNELLI, Western Courier Staff
MACOMB, Illinois (Western Courier) – It was a crazy day for the March Madness Final Four.
The matchups for the Final Four were 2 seeded Houston vs. 1 seeded Baylor and 11 seeded UCLA vs. 1 seeded Gonzaga. We have not been in the Final Four in a long time. 11 seeded UCLA has not been in the Final Four since 2008, Baylor has not been in the Final Four since 1950, and Houston has not been in the Final Four since 1984.
The first game was Houston vs. Baylor and the game started off with the game being tied 8-8 in the first 4 minutes. After that, Baylor would get on an 8-0 run to make it 16-8 with a three, a layup and mostly free throws. Houston’s Marcus Sasser would make a three pointer to inch closer, and Houston would have a tough time offensively as their next basket which was another three-pointer by Sasser came in 3 minutes. Baylor would keep cruising along as Mark Vital, Jared Butler and Adam Flagler all made baskets as Baylor increased their run to 38-17 which was an outscore of 30-9 since the 8-8 tie. Davion Mitchell would make a layup and a three-point basket near the end of the half as Baylor was up 45-20 at the half.
In the second half, we got a good start from Houston as Reggie Chaney, Quentin Grimes and Dejon Darreau with baskets inching closer as they still trailed Baylor by 23. Houston would try to get more points to creep closer to Baylor, getting to where they were down by 17 as Justin Gorham, Jamal Shead and Dejon Jarreau with baskets. Baylor would not stop making baskets as MaCio Teague, Mark Paterson and Davion Mitchell all with baskets. Houston scored more points in the 2nd half as they outscored Baylor 39-33 in the second half, but Baylor secured the victory with the strong 1st half as Baylor beat Houston 78-59.
The second and final game of the night, we had UCLA vs. Gonzaga. UCLA’s top player Johnny Juzang was really impressive this whole tournament as he started the game off with a jumper. Joel Ayayi made a three pointer and a layup shortly right after to put Gonzaga up for the first time. Jules Bernard and Jamie Jaquez Jr. came up with baskets for UCLA as Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard with baskets. This game would stay really close the whole half as the teams kept going back and forth with taking the lead with UCLA’s biggest lead being 6 and Gonzaga’s at 3. It was starting to become the game to watch as everyone started to get the upset alert notifications as UCLA trails Gonzaga by only one point at the half at 45-44.
The 2nd half started with a foul on Jules Bernard and Gonzaga only making 1 free throw. Jamie Jaquez Jr. with the first basket for UCLA of the half to tie the game up. The upset alert will stay on the whole half both teams continue to take the lead back and forth. Things started to get exciting as the game was tied 81-81 with 43 seconds remaining in the half. The score would stay 81-81 as this game goes into overtime. Gonzaga gets a big start in overtime as Drew Timme makes some layups, putting Gonzaga’s lead to 4 with 3 minutes remaining. Cody Riley for UCLA comes back with jumpers to put UCLA back trailing by 2. Andrew Nembhard makes the three for Gonzaga to put them back up by 5 and shortly just after, UCLA’s Jamie Jaquez Jr. makes a three to make it a 2-point game again. With just 3 seconds remaining, Johnny Juzang ties it with a layup to possibly save UCLA from losing, but Jalen Suggs shoots a three pointer at the buzzer beater as he makes it in off the backboard to win the game for Gonzaga, putting them into the championship.
On Monday, we will see the top 2 teams in the country face off in the national championship as Gonzaga will take on Baylor at 8:20 P.M. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.