Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale Can’t Stop Watching Her Championship Buzzer-Beater, Either

5 minute read

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an athlete, anywhere, who’s ever had a weekend like Arike Ogunbowale just did. On Friday night in Columbus, Ohio, the Notre Dame junior hit an incredible pull-up jump shot in the final seconds to give the Fighting Irish a 91-89 overtime win against Connecticut in the national semifinals; the Huskies hadn’t lost a game all season. Then, on Easter Sunday, Ogunbowale followed up that clutch performance with an even bigger stunner. With Notre Dame and Mississippi State tied at 58-58, Ogunbowale launched a contested last-second three-pointer — degree of difficulty, 10.0 — that somehow found the bottom of the net, and delivered Notre Dame its first women’s basketball title since 2001.

After a night of celebrating with her teammates, Ogunbowale, 21, spoke to TIME on Monday from the Notre Dame team bus, which was traveling from Columbus back to South Bend, Indiana, with the national championship trophy sitting in the front seat.

As a kid growing up in Milwaukee, how any times did you practice hitting those last-second shots?

I was always having fun, when working out, doing a lot of crazy different shots. Pounding down, at last second. But to actually do it on a stage like this is unheard of. It’s crazy.

When you let your shot go against Mississippi State in the final, did you think it had a chance of going in?

I mean, if felt good. But you never know. When the shot went in, I couldn’t believe it actually. It was just, “Wow.” Then I started running to my teammates. After, I heard the whistle. I was like, “Wait, did I get it off in time?” But I clearly got it off in time. But I was just like, something had to have gone wrong. There’s just no way.

The referees sort of stopped the celebration to check the clock. I thought the review took some of the joy out of the moment. The officials put 0.1 second back on the clock. What did you think of all that?

We knew they weren’t going to be able to get a shot off that quick. It was really pointless. Even the Mississippi State coach was like, “It’s over, just end it.” The ref wanted the .1 second. But I think we were still excited.

Prior to your shot, your teammate Marina Mabrey collided with Mississippi State’s Morgan William at half-court, resulting in a steal. That turnover ultimately set up your game-winner. Mississippi State fans will surely insist, for a long time, that William was fouled. Did you see the collision?

I watched the play, and Marina really got ball. I thought Morgan flopped a little bit cause Marina really stole the ball clean. It could go both ways. That call was, I guess, crucial for them. We felt all game we weren’t getting any calls. I guess that’s just how it played out. I don’t think you should really to let the refs define the game like that with a foul call right there.

On the game-winning inbounds play, you weren’t the first option.

I had an off shooting day, and Jessica [Shepard], she was killing it in the post the whole game. So we wanted to take advantage of that. I think they knew we wanted to go to her because they had one person behind her, and the person guarding the in-bounder backed up. So it would have been hard to make that pass.

How many times have you watched the video?

I can’t even count how many. A lot. I keep getting tagged in the video, so I keep watching it. I’m just like, this is insane how this happened.

You were an excellent soccer player growing up, but you eventually gave it up to focus on hoops. How difficult was that?

It was definitely tough. I loved soccer. I played it until my sophomore year [of high school]. It was getting really hard to juggle both of them. So I really had to choose one. I definitely miss soccer. But I definitely don’t regret the decision.

You’re a business major at Notre Dame. Are you back in class this week?

I have classes tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. Tomorrow I think I have managerial economics.

So your professors aren’t going to give you a few days off to bask in the glory?

Nah. I wish. I definitely have to go to class. I’ve been missing two weeks straight.

Do you have any advice out there for all the girls and boys in their driveways or on the playgrounds, hitting all those buzzer-shots in their minds?

Really, anything is possible. Keep shooting those crazy, off-balance shots. Because you never know when they’re going to come in handy.

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