New York City- It happens every finals evening.
The respective teams warm up, energized, ready to go and compete for a national championship. The ‘big stage,’ Madison Square Garden, is set. In the background, others are in preparation for this momentous night. Fans congregate before heading to their seats. Players quietly go through their pregame paces. Band members tune up. Cheerleaders and dance team members split time between stretching and touching up their appearance.
The tipoff through the early moments see both teams establishing their game plans. A double-digit deficit sees no need to panic, as the team behind has time and hopes on their side.
Halftime adjustments are made. The early minutes very often dictate the course of the game. As the minutes wear on and a lead is built, leaders show a bounce in their step. Those playing catch up wear a look of deep concern.
Thursday night, it happened almost to script. The NIT championship between Valparaiso and George Washington followed along those lines. The two teams were nearly even for a half. The one-point Colonial halftime lead was expanded early in the second half. As the minutes wore on in the final half, it was evident the game was in George Washington’s hands.
The final buzzer brings contrasts. The scoreboard proclaims George Washington’s 76-60 victory and championship. The champion Colonials start a celebration their players and fans did not want to end. Valparaiso slowly exits the court. The runners-up are in a position they obviously do not relish, one of severe hurt and not desiring of seeing the victors receive their awards. In the days that follow, the realization of a 30-win season and tournament championship final will ease the pain they feel on this night.
The NIT, with its tradition and age, is anything but stuffy and outdated. It is an event that always presents the faithful with a different story each year, a new chapter to add to a colorful history. This year’s edition did not disappoint one bit, a colorful chapter in buff and blue.
A fan and media favorite alike: Hot dogs on the MSG grill:
This sign used by the George Washington cheerleaders summed up what won the NIT for the Colonials:
On hand to support his college classmate Mike Lonergan, Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos catches up with Daly Dose founder and editor Jaden Daly at halftime:
The George Washington band gets a piece of the action:
Valparaiso huddles during a timeout midway through the second half:
Tyler Cavanaugh accepts the Most Outstanding Player trophy:
George Washington, the 2016 NIT Champions:
George Washington coach Mike Lonergan gets a boost cutting the net: