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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    1988: Season ends on bittersweet note


    April 4, 1988 — Kansas City, Mo. — Tears fell like a light mist as the University of Arizona basketball season came to an end.

    Droplets of water ran from the eyes of the dejected players as their thoughts of what they had done were erased — temporarily — and thoughts of what just happened took over their emotions.

    “”Every time we look back at this season we will think of the Final Four and losing to Oklahoma,”” junior forward Anthony Cook said after the Sooners defeated the Wildcats 88-78 in the National Collegiate Athletic Association semi-finals.

    The players, after giving it their all for 40 mints, were forced to sit and answer questions for nearly an hour as reporters hovered around them asking what happened.

    Junior guard Kenny Lofton tried to avoid the commotion by pressing his head to the wall with a towel wrapped securely around his face to hide the tears.

    Cold stares darted from one player to another in disbelief that the season was actually over.

    From players to coaches to trainers to managers, eyes were redder than a rose as the reality hit them that dreams are not always fulfilled.

    “”It will take a while,”” guard Steve Kerr said with his head hung low. “”Devastating — that is the correct word.””

    There were some who wanted to speak of the accomplishments, although it was a difficult task at the moment.

    “”Not a lot of people get here,”” senior center Tom Tolbert said dejectedly. “”Not a lot of teams play here.””

    “”It feels bad right now,”” junior forward Sean Elliott said. “”The guys have to sit back and realize what we have done. We did what nobody expected us to do.””

    This is the attitude the 1987-88 Wildcat team will be remembered for.,

    “”It’ll hurt for a couple of minutes, but then you look back and realize all the good things we did,”” Tolbert said. “”Not very many players have accomplished the things we did this season.””

    The accomplishments were many:

    Arizona won 35 games and lost only three. The number of wins sets a school and Pacific 10 Conference record for most in a season.

    Arizona won its second league title in three years.

    Arizona was ranked among to top four in the Associated Press poll since Dec. 7.

    Arizona spent six weeks at the No. 1 position.

    Arizona made its mark in college basketball as a team to be reckoned with now and in the years to come.

    Arizona is beginning to be recognized as a team that is called the Wildcats and that they play in Tucson.

    Most of all, Arizona went to the NCAA’s Final Four, an accomplishment that stands above the rest.

    “”This was the greatest experience a person could ever have,”” senior reserve Joe Turner said.

    For a night, the spotlight was on Wildcat basketball. It was a time where 13 players and a coaching staff could feel the atmosphere of what being the best really meant, even with the defeat.

    “”At the moment, this loss takes everything away,”” Kerr said.

    It does now, but not always

    “”Right now you just think about this game,”” senior guard Craig McMillan said. “”Down the road when you look back, you know it has been a great season.””

    Will a great season be remembered because of a loss, not for a gain?

    “”We will always be upset we lost to them,”” McMillan said.

    The players, coaches and fans will indeed look back at April 2, 1988 as a night the team was bested by Oklahoma, but it will also be recalled as a start to a bright future.


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