KANSAS CITY – Multi-colored streamers arched down over the Big 12 Conference Tournament champion Missouri men’s basketball team.
Right before the buzzer sounded, senior guard Kim English embraced senior center Steve Moore.
Before long, junior guard Michael Dixon had his championship hat in hand, twirling it wildly as he zoomed around the court. Senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe impressed the crowd with his moves while dancing to Missouri’s fight song.
After beating Baylor 90-75 in their final Big 12 Conference game, the Tigers, decked out in gold Big 12 champion T-shirts, huddled around Missouri coach Frank Haith to accept the trophy.
Following the presentation, senior guard Jarrett Sutton held the glass trophy and craned his neck to see a video of tournament highlights on the scoreboard screen. The crowd roared in approval as English’s face flashed across it.
English scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds in the victory and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. He threw his arm around radio broadcaster Mike Kelly and pumped his fist into the air before an interview. When he finished, he pointed to the crowd, blew a kiss and mouthed the words, “I love you.”
Senior guard Matt Pressey was the first Tiger up the ladder to cut a piece of the net, followed by his little brother Phil Pressey, who was named to the all-tournament team and had eight assists and 15 points for Missouri.
Senior forward Laurence Bowers then stepped slowly onto the ladder, placing both feet on each rung on the way up.
“I was definitely emotional because we won it our first year in the Big 12 — me, Marcus, Kimmie, Steve – and we won our last year. So it’s just one of those deals that it’s an opportunity, and we took advantage of it. We had guys coming into this game that had been there before,” Bowers said. “It’s just an incredible feeling. I’m so proud of those guys.”
Before Bowers suffered a season-ending knee injury, the team had been picked to finish fourth in the conference. He said that the realization of the adversity his team had overcome to win the championship was running through his mind and made him “jump for joy.”
Senior guard Marcus Denmon, who had 15 points for the Tigers, cut his piece of the net and twirled it around in the air to the cheers of the crowd before placing it under the rim of his hat.
When English took his turn up the ladder, he grabbed the rim with both hands and shook it before cutting his piece of the net. He then gave a wide smile for the photographers positioned on the floor.
“I never said it before, but I wanted to win this one a little bit for our fans,” English said.
After Haith clipped the remaining loops of the net, Moore brought the glass trophy in front of Missouri’s band and hoisted it over his head. As he talked to reporters afterward, he held the trophy in his hands.
“The excitement just took over my body,” Moore said. “It feels good. I was a Big 12 champ once, and then to be a Big 12 champ again, and me being a senior in the role that I’ve been in this whole season, there’s nothing like it. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
“It’s just been a special moment,” Haith said. “And we’re really blessed. God had his hands all over this year.”
For a brief moment, Bowers didn’t think he could imagine a better story than the Tigers' experiences during his four years with the team, but he quickly caught himself.
“Yeah, I can,” he said with a smile. “Win the national championship.”