Believing is half the battle, Big Bend women face Walla Walla in NWAC semifinals

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Rodney Harwood

Thirty-eight years ago, sportscaster Al Michaels called out the six words that went down in sports infamy, “Do you believe in miracles, yes?” when Team USA upset the Soviet machine in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

The game was so spectacular it was dubbed “The Miracle on Ice.” Just to hear those six words bring a lump to my throat, goose bumps and a little tear to my eye. It’s an expression that should not be taken lightly or even used again, lest spoil the greatest call in sports history at one of sport’s greatest moments.

But I will tell you this, the Bracket Busters from Big Bend believe.

They’re not even supposed to be there. When they lost an East Region home game to Yakima Valley in January and went tumbling to the basement, all thoughts of going to the NWAC women’s basketball championships went right down the sewer.

Not even in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood were they going to live happily ever after. But somewhere in coach Preston Wilks’ school of thought came the idea, “If we can just get there, we can make it to the Final Four.”

Are you outta your mind? Did you take a tumble off the rail to the gym floor? You just lost Yakima Valley at home. You’re in eighth place in the East. Not gonna happen.

But the Lady Vikes bought in and they've been on a Bender ever since.

Not that mean drunk, can’t remember where ya are kind of bender. But the warm, fuzzy Bender that says, “We belong and we’re going far.”

The Vikings (22-9) beat West Region No. 1 seed Grays Harbor in the Sweet 16 at the NWAC tournament. Then came right back the following night beat the North’s No. 2 seed, Everett, in front of their home crowd to advance to the Final Four.

Maybe Wilks, who kind of looks like Mr. Rogers in a brown sweater, is on to something. Before you can, you have to think you can. Whatever he’s doing, don’t stop now because Big Bend returns to its first NWAC Final Four in 15 years.

Not since the 2001-02 Lady Vikings won the whole darn shooting match or the 2002-03 team finished as the runner-up has a Big Bend team played in the tournament, let alone been one of the four remaining teams.

Both of those Viking teams won the East that season, so for the Lady Vikings of 2017-18 to roll up the program’s second NWAC championship, going into the tournament as the fourth seed, would put them in special company.

Having said all that, Big Bend (22-9) faces the Beast from the East, Walla Walla (30-1), in the semifinals at 8 p.m. on Saturday. The Warriors 28-game winning streak sounds a little like the Soviet Union hockey machine that came up against a bunch of American kids with nothing to lose and a game that says, “Bring it.”

Do you believe?

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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