ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — During the NCAA tournaments, we're reminded of the excitement and drama of college basketball. But apparently, things can get a little hairy during the regular season.
The University of Maine women's basketball team traveled to South Carolina to take part in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Challenge tournament during Thanksgiving break. The Black Bears played a talented University of South Carolina squad and finished the tournament with a 1-2 record.
While coach Richard Barron hoped for a better outcome, he said it was a really good experience playing against a SEC squad. But everything turned around just hours before the team made the trip back to Bangor Wednesday. The team went to a local mall to do a little shopping and grab some food before its flight home. In the meantime, the rented vans were broken into and players' and coaches' computers, licenses and passports were stolen.
But somehow, the Black Bears made it back home, some on different flights, on the busiest day of the year. "The fact that we got back was pretty incredible," Barron said. "Somehow with that happening, we were able to get everyone back home."
The women didn't dwell on what they experienced. Less than 24 hours later, they served Thanksgiving dinner at the local homeless shelter.
"As people came in for their meal, they put their backpacks in cubbies. Our backpacks were stolen, but we were okay," Barron said. "Their entire lives were in those backpacks."
In that moment, it didn't matter about the wins and losses, but instead, the Black Bears realized how thankful they were for what they had.
"What could have been something that really put a damper on us for weeks, it was something our kids spun into something positive," Barron said. "The loss of personal items, as unsettling as that may be, it was still a great lesson for us to come home and be grateful for everything that we do have."
The UMaine women's coaching staff is currently working on trying to get the players new passports, especially since some are planning to head home to their native countries for the holidays.