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Three decades later, Chaminade’s win over Virginia remains an upset for the ages

Sampson, Randolph among participants attending this year’s Maui Invitational

November 21, 2012
By Kyle Sakamoto - Staff Writer (ksakamoto@mauinews.com) , The Maui News

LAHAINA - The date: Dec. 23, 1982.

The teams: Virginia and Chaminade.

The end result: one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history.

Article Photos

‘When you look back, and I look back at it, you think that that game in itself and what it has done for college basketball and throughout the islands and throughout the world, it means a lot to me to be a part of it, and I’m always glad to come back.’ – Ralph Sampson
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

As time goes by, the Silverswords' 77-72 victory over the top-ranked Cavaliers before about 3,500 fans at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu grows in legend.

If things work out, a whole new generation could be introduced to David slaying Goliath on the hardwood.

"They're in conversations about making a movie about it," said Tony Randolph, a starter for Chaminade in 1982.

Members of both teams from 30 years ago are at the Lahaina Civic Center this week to celebrate the game's anniversary - Randolph and former Chaminade head coach Merv Lopes; and Ralph Sampson, who was the Cavaliers' star center, and Dave Odom, an assistant coach with Virginia at the time.

"Sometimes when you hear the word celebration, sometimes you think everybody's happy," said Odom, now the chairman of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. "We who represent Virginia that day were not particularly happy on that occasion."

In 1982, the Cavaliers had the 7-foot-4 Sampson, and a host of other talented players. The Silverswords were an NAIA team that had to share a gym with a high school.

"When the game began, we just sort of blinked every emotion out and took our egos to another level as a team, as a family," Randolph said. "That is eventually what led to the courageousness of the men I played with to go against such a powerhouse team in Virginia. I guess we were very fortunate that luck was on our side."

Randolph, at 6-7, had the task of guarding Sampson, his childhood friend from Virginia.

"We knew each other from way back," Randolph said. "We played against each other in high school. We had a rivalry in high school, but also we were friends and we played street ball together."

Randolph scored 19 points that night. Sampson had 12.

"We lost in a good battle," said Sampson, a three-time college player of the year and the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Houston Rockets in 1983. "They were ready to play and we came in and we didn't expect them to win. But we lost and we had to go back and regroup."

One of the lasting images of the game was Richard Haenisch sitting on top of the rim and lifting one of the cut-down nets above his head.

"I guess it has a life of its own, the memories and game against Virginia," Randolph said.

Said Lopes: "The event between Chaminade and Virginia has changed my life. I know that."

The lead-in

Virginia was very busy prior to the game.

Odom recalled playing Duke on Tuesday and Georgetown, which had a freshman center named Patrick Ewing, on Friday.

Odom said the Cavaliers were supposed to leave Saturday for Japan to play a couple of games, but a snowstorm in the Northeast delayed the flight a full day.

In Japan, Virginia beat Duke and Houston. Sampson didn't play on the trip because he was dehydrated, according to Odom.

On the way back to the Mainland, the Cavaliers had a game scheduled in Hawaii against a school called Chaminade.

"We went out on the University of Hawaii's football field and played touch football," Odom said. "We had a great time. Everybody was in great spirits. But what we should have been doing was practicing that day instead of screwing around on the football field."

The game with the Silverswords was the following day.

"We just went into it and said, 'Hey, we just knocked off the University of Hawaii,' and we felt we could play against Division I," Randolph said.

The Silverswords simulated Sampson's presence in practice by having someone stand on a chair and wave a broomstick in the air.

"I think the young men that I had to play with as teammates were awesome," Randolph said. "Their hearts were much bigger than their size on paper."

The impact

People still bring up the Chaminade-Virginia game to Randolph, who is a dean and assistant basketball coach at St. Francis School in Honolulu.

"It's written in stone," he said. "It comes up so often, it's not even funny."

The last time Sampson was on Maui was in 2002, for the 20th anniversary of the upset. He currently is the player development coach for the Phoenix Suns.

Besides the memories, one of the upset's other legacies is the Maui Invitational, created after Chaminade vaulted onto the national stage.

"If a loss (for Virginia) leads to this event and it's 30 years later, that's pretty impressive," Sampson said. "So when you look back, and I look back at it, you think that that game in itself and what it has done for college basketball and throughout the islands and throughout the world, it means a lot to me to be a part of it, and I'm always glad to come back."

* Kyle Sakamoto is at ksakamoto@mauiews.com

 
 

 

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