A (Freethrow) Shot Heard Around the Sports World
In just over 24 hours since the buzzer sounded and Braun Gym erupted in elation over the Caltech men's basketball team's victory Tuesday night, Caltech has become—at least for this moment—the center of the sports world.
With a 46-45 victory over Occidental, the Beavers won their first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (SCIAC) game in more than 26 years, breaking a 310-game losing streak.
The media has flocked to Caltech not to cover a triumph in science and discovery, but a triumph in sports. In addition to all the local news outlets, Beavers basketball has been on ESPN's Sportscenter, graced the sports pages of the New York Times, and has been covered by ESPN and USA Today. The team is on today's front page of the Los Angeles Times, and was featured last night on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. Probably for the first time in Caltech's illustrious history of Nobel Prizes and brilliant students and faculty, there was a press conference in the gym.
Head coach Oliver Eslinger was even asked to work his magic as a guest coach for the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters tonight in Ontario, California. The Generals have their own daunting streak: they haven't beaten the Globetrotters since January 5, 1971.
Yes, it was just a one-point win and the team's final record was a mere 5-20. But if you ask anyone who has been following Caltech basketball this season or who was in a raucous Braun Gym on Tuesday night, none of that mattered. All season long, the Beavers came oh-so-close to snapping the SCIAC streak. And finally, on the last game of the season, they pulled off the win in dramatic fashion, on senior Ryan Elmquist's free throw with 3.3 seconds remaining. It was the last point the four-year starter, co-captain, and the second-leading scorer in Beavers history would make wearing a Caltech uniform. As he told the CBS Evening News, "I can't think of a better storybook ending."
David Werntz was a member of the Caltech team that won the last SCIAC game, edging out La Verne 48-47 on January 23, 1985. And he was there cheering on the team on Tuesday night. "To a man, our 1985 team couldn't be happier for the 2011 team," he says. "They did what Caltech teams always do: try hard. This time, it paid off with a win." (Click here to read some of Werntz's thoughts on the game.)
Watch a video celebrating the Beavers' season.