By Jon Pessah
Shay Doron wasn't supposed to be here, standing on the temporary stage in a Marriott hotel ballroom. Less than two hours before, she'd helped will the Maryland Terrapins to the national basketball title with a 78-75 overtime victory over Duke. Now, she stepped to the microphone to address the families and faithful Maryland fans who followed their young team to Boston for a game they weren't supposed to win.
"I want to thank everyone who believed in us, especially those who where here for the 10-18 season," she said.
Shay talked about her love for her teammates, for her family, for the fans. She talked about those who said Maryland could never win. And she said she wasn't going to cry.
Then, she stepped away from the microphone, and of course, she cried.
She wasn't supposed to be here. The experts said Maryland was a year away, and a young team that was lucky to reach the final four, much less the title game. The critics said she'd made a mistake picking Maryland when Tennessee and Stanford were calling.
Her parents said maybe she was supposed to go to Harvard, which would tell her to come play hoops while studying among the best and brightest.
But Shay Doron has a mind of her own. Leaving Israel to play basketball in the United States was her idea. Playing for Maryland was her idea. Believing that the Terps could win a title three years ago was her idea, too.
So there she was, hat turned backward, in her white Maryland NCAA championship T-shirt and sweats,jumping up and down with her teammates as the Maryland band blared and the couple of hundred fans in the ballroom cheering. Off to the side, a glass championship trophy sparkled under the lights, reminding the young Terps that this wasn't a dream.
And there was Tamari and Yuda Doron, wiping away the occasional tear, watching their daughter live her dream.Tamari had spent the weekend in Boston, while Yuda, a computer software developer, flew up and back between games.
They'd seen their daughter hit a pair of three-pointers in the first half to keep the Terps from falling to far behind in the first half. They'd seen her make a steal, score and run back the court, pumping her fist and screaming.
It seemed to ignite her teammates, who wiped out a 12-point deficit to pull even with six minutes to play when Shay hit two free throws.
The Dorons looked on, hands to their faces, when their daughter got tangled up with Duke's Mistie Williams and was left lying on the floor, writhing in pain. She was already playing with tape on her dislocated left thumb and more tape on her broken right pinkie. Now, the doctor was helping her to the sideline, when he wrapped more tape around her right elbow.
And they watched Shay rush back in the game the Terps would tie on a three-pointer in the final seconds by freshman Kristi Toliver. When the last few seconds ticked off the clock, in OT, with Maryland ahead by three, they watched their daughter run over to the section of Maryland fans, leap atop the dividing wall and beat her chest to the cheers of the faithful.
Minutes later as Shay was climbing a ladder to make the first cut of the net, Yuda stood among a large circle of friends. A big friendly man who rarely is without a smile, he was quite possibly the happiest man on the planet.
At dinner an hour or so before the game, his friends had teased him about his desire to send Shay a few miles away from the restaurant to Harvard. Now, as they exchanged hugs and high-fives, they were teasing him again.
His daughter would be named by ESPN the game's MVP.
"She wasn't supposed to be here," he told them. "But she didn't listen to her father. Thank God for that."
Jon Pessah is deputy editor for ESPN-The Magazine and a contributing writer to the Baltimore Jewish Times. Reprinted with permission from the Baltimore Jewish Times.