In this week’s Maroon Moment of the Week, we’ll be taking a look at the 2008 SEC Tournament. It never will, nor should be forgotten. And that’s not for basketball reasons.
After manhandling Florida in the opening round of the tournament, the Alabama Crimson Tide were set to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the quarterfinals on March 14th. Alabama found itself trailing Mississippi State 59-56 in the final seconds of the first game of the evening session. Crimson Tide guard Mykal Riley sank a last-second three-pointer as time expired, sending the game into overtime. That shot not only extended the game for the moment, but it may have prevented thousands of fans from pouring into the city streets just as a tornado touched down outside the Georgia Dome a few minutes later.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning about 15 minutes before the game concluded and officials were not notified in time to call a halt of play until the storm passed. During overtime, the tornado passed over the Georgia Dome, which sent bolts and insulation onto the floor. Commentator during the game, Joe Dean Jr., described the scene:“And at that moment we hear an unbelievable sound that sounds like a train riding over the top of the Georgia Dome…The entire building froze. Everybody stopped; the officials, the players the crowd and everybody looked up. Scaffolding was swaying back and forth, lights were swaying and it was very scary. And nobody really knew what to do.”
After the storm passed, the teams returned to the court at 10:30 and completed the game. The Bulldogs won 69-67.
The Kentucky–Georgia basketball game, originally scheduled for that night, was postponed.It was rescheduled for Saturday at noon. Due to the severe damage suffered at the Georgia Dome, the remainder of the tournament was moved to Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum. After working out the logistics of delaying the vast majority of the tournament, play restarted. The Bulldogs would lose to eventual winner Georgia in the semifinals. Mississippi State also made the NCAA Tournament, but lost in the Round of 32.
What happened that night is still scary to think about, If Riley doesn’t hit that shot, who knows what could have happened to the fans who would’ve left the stadium. Thankfully, no one was injured. The Georgia Dome was repaired in time for the 2008 Atlanta Falcons season. Those who survived the tornado joke that they survived a terrible catastrophe. All was well in the world. Everything worked out in the end.
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Until next time.