Everyone has been buzzing about the insane first-round game of the NCAA tournament–no.16 UMBC Retrievers upsetting the no.1 ranked Virginia, taking the entire nation by surprise, and busting up brackets everywhere.
Both teams battled hard the whole first half, leads by either side rarely exceeding 5 points, but in the second half, the Retrievers had a change of heart, playing with incredible passion and in the end, taking the game by twenty points. The game was labeled historical, and the “first ever in history” in which the 16th ranked team overtook the team on top
But, it wasn’t.
The first team to overtake the first seed while being ranked sixteenth was the Harvard women’s basketball team, who defeated Stanford by four points in the first round of the Division I NCAA Championships back in 1998. The Harvard women’s basketball Twitter (HarvardWBB) welcomed the University of Maryland Baltimore County to their now two member “16-Over-1” club, while UMBC Athletics (UMBCAthletics) gave credit to the team from 1998, writing, “They laid the groundwork, it just took us 20 years to catch up.”
These underdogs left people who follow college basketball dumbfounded. UMBC went into its second round game with a new and temporary fanbase, fans who wanted to see the underrated team make its way to the top. Sadly, each of these teams had short-lived Cinderella Stories, losing their proximate games. Though their journeys ended quickly, by defying nearly unbeatable odds, individuals like these players sparked inspiration all over the nation.
While it wasn’t a nationwide tournament, the East Lyme girls basketball team reached a similar feat this season. Going into the second round of the state tournament ranked 15th, my teammates and I were expecting anything but a win before facing the number two seeded Holy Cross. With the game tied at 20 going into the second half, we had shocked ourselves, and suddenly victory was in reach. Playing only our six-man rotation, East Lyme overtook Holy Cross 48-41. The amounting pride and confidence resulting from those 32 minutes was indescribable. Though we lost our following game, the unlikely win was one that brought the team together in a way we’d never been before. The comradery and “family” that head coach Sal Fiorillo stressed throughout the season had finally become a reality.
Even if every college basketball fan in the country has you down for a loss in the first round of their bracket, a win is still attainable, all depending on how you face the challenge. Whether you find yourself staring a seemingly impossible test in the face, or facing some of the top athletes in the United States, it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll give in, or fight back.