Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category
Don’t forget: For all the links, Twitter feeds and news feeds related to Arizona and its opponents, go to Morales’ site WILDABOUTAZCATS.NET. No other Arizona sports Web site is like it!
1975-76 Arizona Wildcats (24-9)
–Lost to UCLA 82-66 in the West Regional Final. To note: The NCAA tournament only had 32 teams in 1976 and the regional final was played on UCLA’s campus at Pauley Pavilion.
2000-01 Arizona Wildcats (28-8)
–Beat Illinois 87-81 in the Midwest Regional Final; beat Michigan State 80-61 in the Final Four; and lost to Duke 82-72 in the national title game. To note: The Wildcats advanced through the tournament playing in honor of Lute Olson’s wife Bobbi, who died of ovarian cancer on Jan. 1, 2001.
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Jim Rappis (1972-76) vs. Jason Gardner (1999-2003)
Both of these leaders exemplified fortitude.
The media coined Rappis, a senior, as Arizona’s “Six Million Dollar Man” before the Cats lost to UCLA in the West Regional Final at Pauley Pavilion.
He fractured an ankle as a freshman and still managed to play nine games. He suffered a ruptured appendix at the beginning of his sophomore year and had a series of ankle injuries but still played in 24 of 26 games. Another ankle injury when he was a junior forced him to use a cane off the court throughout the season. He underwent surgery to correct a spinal disc before the 1975-76 season and was in grave danger of losing his life when he contracted peritonitis.
In the 1976 West Regional Semifinal — one of the most thrilling games in UA history when the Wildcats beat coach Jerry Tarkanian and UNLV 114-109 in overtime — Rappis injured his left heel with 5:57 left in the first half but continued to play despite being hobbled throughout. He finished with 24 points and 12 assists against the Running Rebels.
“Jimmy is the epitome of courage,” Snowden said after the game. “He was in great pain but he went out there anyway.”