When the Winona State men's basketball team says they took a tough journey to the NCAA Division II's Elite Eight in Louisville they mean it literally.
Plane troubles threw a big scare into members of the team as they flew from their school in Minnesota to Detroit and then down into Kentucky. The landing gear malfunctioned as the team approached Louisville — it reportedly wouldn't lock into position — and the flight's passengers were instructed by a crying flight attendant on how to assume the "crash" position.
The good news is that the gear eventually got where it was supposed to be so a belly landing was never attempted. But the entire situation lasted 15 to 20 minutes, which was more than enough to draw things into perspective for members of the squad.
"I was kind of joking about it a little bit at first,” (Winona State coach Mike) Leaf said. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on. The guy next to me had just got done telling me how he travels a lot, is gone three days a week, and how hard it is on his wife and kids.
“Then he got his phone out and started texting. When I was watching that, I started thinking about the movie ‘Flight 93’ where everybody is letting their loved ones know. I thought, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Then I actually did text. It was to my sister (Mary).
“It was one of those things where I made a text and had my finger on top of it, so if we were going down, my finger was going to hit that button and it was going to get into hyperspace.
Winona State's players may have ultimately arrived in Louisville safely, but it's unclear if they'll leave in equally triumphant fashion. They'll face a 33-1 West Liberty team on Thursday afternoon as they pursue the third national championship in school history after titles in 2006 and 2008.