Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pictures of the week



Mykiea Russell drives to the hoop during Umpqua Community College's regional championship tie-breaker game Feb. 25, 2009.



Dulles standout Kelsey Bone and Nimitz prodigy Brittney Griner in Texas 5A regional semi-finals Friday, Feb. 27, 2009. Nimitz upset Dulles, despite Griner fouling out in the third quarter.



Pre-game captain's meeting, Friday, Feb. 27, 2009: Washington Prep on left - Tayllor Gipson (foreground) and Kejuana Gardner; Taft's Briana Smythe (foreground) and Joy Hubbard.

City Section scores from last night

I won't rail once again on the lack of score reporting around here - especially from the so-called major daily newspaper, the LA Times, who last updated girl's scores a week ago. I'll just go ahead and report them my own self.

Chatsworth defeated Fairfax 63-47.

Taft defeated Washington Prep 69-57.

Not sure of the details of the first game, though I messaged with one of the Fairfax coaches last night, who said they were (obviously) very sad and disappointed.

At Taft, the home team started strong and was up on Prep, 16-8 at 2:44 in the first quarter. Prep rallied, but was only able to cut the lead to six, 19-13, at the end of one.

The Generals were within two, 29-27 at 2:22 in the second quarter, but the Torreadors stepped on the gas. They stepped up their defense and threw Washington off their game, and made a few key threes (senior Haley Newell was responsible for most of them the whole game long). Taft was up 41-26 at the half.

The third quarter was a nightmare for Prep: they were missing bunny shots and easy layups. In the meantime, Taft could do no wrong; they couldn't miss. The referees were not doing their jobs, either, by letting a lot of blatant fouls go. (The moment I saw the short female ref before the game, I knew the officiating would be bad, because she is). The Generals let the crappy reffing (both ways) get to them, and this made things worse. The Torreadors were up 60-35 after three - the most I've ever seen Prep behind.

The Generals suddenly seemed to remember who they were in the fourth quarter, and they fought back. Junior guard Kejuana Gardner lead the charge, and Prep cut the lead to 63-50 with 2:40 to go. The usually-enthusiastic Washington crowd went wild.

But the Generals let Taft eat up too much time on the next possession, and they were slow with the ball themselves. The refs made another bogus call on Washington. A play later Gardner, never giving up, had the put-back; 66-53 with 1:14 to go. But thirteen seconds later, Gardner had to foul on purpose to stop the clock. Despite two great Gardner buckets in the final minute, it was too little, too late: 69-57 Taft.

Taft snapped Washington's 18-game winning streak, and will play Chatsworth in the City Finals next Saturday evening at the Galen Center.

I'm not sure what happened to either team, as Taft had lost to El Camino Real (the team that Washington beat handily Wednesday night) twice during the regular season, and didn't win their own league. And Washington didn't look like themselves all night long.

The Taft crowd was sportsman and sportswoman-like, but I still say that the City Section playoffs should do as the Southern Section does and have playoff games at neutral school sites. It would be much more fair for every team concerned.

Fortunately for Washington, and maybe Fairfax as well, there is still state playoffs, so their seasons aren't done yet.

Shekinna Stricklen: a star for a long time

LITTLE ROCK - Coach Shelly Davis watched the young woman dribble around the school gym, figured that she was a transfer, and penciled her in as Morrilton High School's new point guard.

Shekinna Stricklen, 5-foot-6 at the time, was in the third grade......

Davis first contacted Tennessee when Stricklen was in the seventh grade. The coach cited a Sports Illustrated For Kids piece in which Stricklen said she wanted to grow up and play for the Lady Vols. A Pat Summitt assistant wanted to see the article so Davis made copies and forwarded them.

From that point on, UT people kept in touch.

A Tennessee assistant first saw Stricklen in the 10th grade and Summitt was in the stands for Stricklen's final game of her junior year. Stricklen's infatuation with Tennessee is rooted in seeing Chamique Holdsclaw play on TV when Stricklen was barely in elementary school.


Link: http://www.thedailycitizen.com/articles/2009/02/28/sports/local_sports/sports05.txt

Interesting piece. Some people really have the gift. The thing I learned today: how unselfish Stricklin was during high school ball.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Brittney Griner and Kelsey Bone: the real deal, Holyfield

In a game that drew more than 6,300 fans to the Campbell Center on Tuesday night, the game's two stars, Nimitz's Brittney Griner and Dulles' Kelsey Bone did not disappoint......

Before she fouled out, Griner had 27 points, seven rebounds and eight blocks. Her points included two dunks that brought the crowd to its feet. Bone finished the game with 26 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.


Link: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/hso/6285468.html

Commentary:

One minute Griner is spiking an opponent’s shot into the fourth row, the next she is picking up a steal and taking the ball the length of the floor for a one-handed jam. Then she is floating to the rack for a two-hander that drives the crowd wild.

Link: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/6285666.html

I know I've said this before, but I can't wait to see Griner play in person. I'm pretty excited about Bone, too.

Southern Section Saturday games

A reader clued me in to ocvarsity.com, so I have tomorrow night's game times and locations:

Long Beach Poly vs. Troy @ Cabrillo/Long Beach HS, 7 p.m.

Perris vs. Cajon @ San Bernardino HS, 7 p.m.

Colony vs. Ayala @ Chino HS, no time listed

Canyon Springs vs. Santa Monica @ Crossroads HS, 6:30 p.m.

Brea Olinda vs. Thousand Oaks @ Newbury Park HS, 7 p.m.

Edison vs. Mira Costa @ Huntington Beach HS, 7 p.m.

Mater Dei vs. Villa Park @ Ocean View HS, no time listed

Beverly Hills vs. Summitt @ Fontana HS, 7 p.m.

Woodbridge vs. Diamond Ranch @ Irvine HS, no time listed

Marlborough vs. Santa Margarita @ Tesoro HS, 6:30 p.m.

Foothill vs. Monrovia @ Segerstrom HS, no time listed

Muir vs. Inglewood @ Pasadena HS, 7 p.m.

Orange Lutheran vs. Rosary @ Servite HS, no time listed

Notre Dame vs. Bishop Montgomery, no time or location listed

St. Joseph vs. Valley Christian @ Gahr HS, no time listed

St. Bonaventure vs. Serra @ Ventura HS, no time listed

Windward vs. Harvard-Westlake @ Notre Dame HS, no time listed

J Serra vs. Pacific Hills @ Providence HS, no time listed

Link to page: http://www.ocvarsity.com/articles/pairings-oc-finals-2308274-quarterfinals-playoffs

Two words: Yeah yuh!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's hard out here for a hoop head

City scores from last night:

Washington 51, El Camino Real 26
Fairfax 77, Carson 69
Taft 65, Westchester 54
Chatsworth 76, Dorsey 57

I bet the Fairfax-Carson game was a good one, because those two good teams are evenly matched.

Tomorrow night's City Section semi-finals will both be at 7 p.m.:

Washington at Taft

Fairfax at Chatsworth

It's harder to track down Southern Section games. For one thing, there are 12 divisions, and thus 12 spidery brackets - so much to keep track of. The Southern Section website doesn't usually have updated scores on the brackets, but I wouldn't know because I can't open the spreadsheet on my PC. The LA Times is spotty at best, and calpreps.com is bad at best. All I know is that there haven't been any major upsets yet. Mater Dei, Brea Olinda, Cajon, Foothill, Long Beach Poly - all the super-powered teams I've seen this season are all still in it. The question is, where? The next round is Saturday, so I'm sure some news hound will figure it out and put the info on socalhoops.com.

They better. Because regardless of the outcome of tomorrow night's game (I'm going to the Prep-Taft rematch), I'll be jonesing for another game like Tyrone the Crack Addict by Saturday night.

Junior colleges headed into the playoffs

Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges wrapped up their seasons last night, and the Division champs have been declared:

NORTH W-L PCT W-L

Z- Skagit Valley 15-0 1.000 23-1
X- Peninsula 12-3 .800 17-9
X- Whatcom 10-5 .667 14-9
X- Bellevue 9-6 .600 16-11
Everett 8-8 .500 9-17
Seattle 6-9 .400 7-18
Shoreline 4-11 .267 10-16
Olympic 4-11 .267 6-17
Edmonds 0-15 .000 0-22

EAST W-L PCT W-L

Z- Yakima Valley 14-0 1.000 23-5
X- Walla Walla 9-5 .643 18-6
X- Treasure Valley 9-5 .643 15-11
X- Columbia Basin 9-5 .643 17-10
Spokane 8-6 .571 15-11
Big Bend 4-10 .286 14-13
Wenatchee Valley 2-12 .143 7-20
Blue Mountain 1-13 .071 3-20

WEST W-L PCT W-L

Z- Centralia 14-1 .933 22-3
X- Lower Columbia 12-3 .800 15-11
X- Highline 10-5 .667 15-12
X- S. Puget Sound 9-6 .600 15-10
Grays Harbor 8-8 .500 8-15
Clark 7-8 .467 7-15
Tacoma 4-11 .267 8-17
Green River 4-11 .267 10-13
Pierce 0-15 .000 2-22

SOUTH W-L PCT W-L

Z- Umpqua 13-1 .929 26-2
X- Lane 12-2 .857 23-5
X- Clackamas 10-4 .714 19-7
X- Mt. Hood 8-6 .571 16-11
Linn-Benton 5-9 .357 9-16
SW Oregon 4-10 .286 9-17
Chemeketa 4-10 .286 8-18
Portland 0-14 .000 3-19
Z- Division Champion
X- Clinched Playoff Berth

Umpqua and Lane had perhaps the most hyped game and fierce rivalry. Umpqua's only league loss this year had been to Lane Jan. 21, and Lane had beat the Riverhawks nine games in a row, in a winning streak that dated back to 2004. Last night Umpqua needed the win to secure the league title, and during the first half it didn't sound like they were going to get there.

I listened to the first half online at work while getting ready to go to my high school playoff game. The Riverhawks fell behind by as much as 16 points, and starting point guard and Los Angeles native Mykiea Russell got three quick (total BS calls - the refs were horrible) fouls and was sitting by, I wanna say, the 12-minute mark. Things were not going their way. Coach Dave Stricklin, upset by the bad officiating was T'd up for talking to the ref. Umpqua trailed 38-46 at the half, when I departed.

According to Umpqua's hometown newspaper, the News Review, this is what happened in the second half:

While Roseburg High graduate Kristi Fallin scored a game-high 37 points and sank six 3-pointers, Scheffelmaier made two big hustle plays late. With her team leading 82-80, the sophomore recovered her own missed attempt and called a timeout from the floor with 30 seconds remaining.

“When you are on the floor you just have to call a timeout,” Scheffelmaier said. “I was taught that you’ve got to be smart when it comes down to the end and make the big plays.”

On the ensuing possession, Lane had to foul Miranda Holenstein, who knocked down both free throws with 20 seconds left in the game. On the next Titan possession, Sheena Cole dribbled the ball off her foot and Scheffelmaier dived for it, forcing a jump ball that gave UCC the possession arrow.

Scheffelmaier calmly sank two free throws to seal the victory against a school she wanted desperately to bring down.


Some great pictures on this link, too:

http://www.nrtoday.com/article/20090226/SPORTS/902269954/1012/NONE&parentprofile=1056&title=Riverhawks%20beat%20nemesis%20Lane%2C%20win%20NWAACC%20titile

Regionals begin next week. Times have yet to be set, but I have sources that will keep me in the loop.

Teams of the National Junior College Athletic Association are still wrapping up regular season play. Current standings, as of last night, are here:

http://www.njcaa.org/sports_polls.cfm?category=Polls&sid=23&divid=1&slid=11

I emailed a rep of the California Community College Athletic Association last month about why the standings pages never work. He said I could go on each team's page and see their record. I said no. They really need to get organized and have a more professional website like NWAACC and NJCAA.

Edit @ 10:30 a.m. Friday to add this link from Umpqua Coach Dave Stricklin's blog:

http://davestricklin.blogspot.com/2009/02/southern-region-champions.html

I don't know which part I like best - the picture, the fact that not one young woman on the team let up for a second, or that coach cares about his sophomores that much. A special place, Umpqua is. I will be rooting for them in the NWAACC championship.

Also, video game highlights: http://www.douglascountysportsonline.com/womens-basketball-lane-at-umpqua-2/25/09.html

Joanne Boyle in.....the Wall Street Journal?

Who knew? Nice piece:

WSJ: Eight years ago, you were nearly killed by a brain hemorrhage that left you unable to speak and move for days. How does that affect how you coach today?

Ms: Boyle: Everybody has things that happen in their life that are reality checks. That happened to me my last year at Duke, and it gave me the strength to actually leave Duke. Some people become very comfortable in their situations. We were going to the Final Four every year. I don't know if I would've left my comfort zone if something like that wouldn't have happened to me.

It was one of those things that, if you can survive that, who cares if you fail as a head coach?

As a coach, you really realize as you get older, as you get caught up in the wins and losses and succeeding and the fear of failure and move, move, move. Along the way, you miss the things that are put in our lives to really enjoy, and that's the kids and the relationships. I've gotten much more at peace with just enjoying the process and the journey more so than the outcome.


Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123560321055576487.html

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Round 2 and 3 scores trickling in

Southern Section, round 3:

Brea 82, Valencia 43
Villa Park 73, Norco 68
Beverly Hills 66, Newbury Park 48
Diamond Ranch 54, Magnolia 43
Mira Costa 44, Buena Park 39
Inglewood 60, Barstow 48
Santa Monica 62, Chino Hills 48
Cajon 70, Lynwood 45

City Section, round 2:

Washington Prep 51, El Camino Real 26

I don't know the Taft-Westchester score except that Taft won, and Prep and Taft will face each other at 7 p.m. Friday in a highly-anticipated re-match of a Dec. 12 game (reviewed in this blog) that Taft won by two points.

Things are getting good now.

*drool*

Quitters

Two former Lady Vols visited the Baby Vols this week: Shelley Sexton and Melissa McCray. Sexton drove McCray, who is battling cancer for the second time. Maria Cornelius and Dan Fleser will write stories based on their interviews with both former players. But Cornelius did drop two McCray quotes on "the Summitt" board that are thought-provoking:

“I really just wanted to remind them of who we are, what the program means. It has a history. It didn’t start two months ago. And to remind them to fight because it’s who we are and it’s what we do. This is not a game. We say all the time, ‘It’s just a game.’ It’s not. It is really life. If you quit here, you will quit later.

“I think people don’t always identify with that but if they look at their own lives and be really honest at some point in their life they quit at something and then they continued that. What I asked them to do – and I would not accuse anyone of quitting – I said, ‘Only you can look at yourself and determine if at any point during the game you quit,’ but fighting is what we do. It’s who we are. It’s why this program is where it is.”


I know of at least five young women who have quit D1 college basketball over the last few years. It's made me sad each time - both for the lost talent and potential, and for the quitting-as-mindset they're setting in motion. Because I agree with McCray: quit once and you tend to keep quitting.

Myself, I never give up, which I suppose is why quitting bothers me so much. I always tell my students and athletes, if you keep trying, you have at least a chance for success, and keep trying long enough you will eventually succeed. Give up, and your chances of success go down to zero.

So I ask all the players out there in various programs, whatever the win-loss record: don't give up. Don't ever give up.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sade Wiley-Gatewood rumors are true: she's gone

All that talk yesterday on the Summitt board turns out to be true:

Senior guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood has left the team for personal reasons, according to Frese, but she is planning to remain enrolled in classes and to graduate in May. Wiley-Gatewood had a star-crossed career since being named the 2004 Parade national high school player of the year: she originally played at Tennessee, transferred to Maryland during her sophomore year, and then sat out last season with knee problems. She was averaging 4.2 points and 19.3 minutes per game this season, and made 14 starts.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/22/AR2009022201637.html

bracketology

Charlie Creme projects:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/bracketology

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Millikan 38, Los Osos 26

Southern Section playoff game results from last night:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/varsitytimesinsider/girls_basketball_playoff_scores/

There were so many options last night that it boggled the mind (one of the reasons I enjoy living in Los Angeles). I contemplated a couple other games between close-seeded teams, but after a full day didn't feel like driving out to the far stretches of Orange or Los Angeles County. So I decided on the LA Times-proclaimed "game of the day" between #6 Millikan and #9 Los Osos.

The game got off to a fairly even start, but Millikan's defense started making a difference right away. They were playing man, and continued to do so all the way through, while Los Osos mostly stuck with a 2-3 zone that wasn't working. Millikan also was outhustling the Grizzlies on both ends of the court.

In the second quarter both teams hit a mental block, and the score was 16-11 Rams for about three minutes. Millikan then broke it open with some quick baskets and free throws, closing out the half 22-12.

Los Osos made a run in the third quarter, but Millikan kept up the pressure defense and slowly wore their opponents down. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Rams were back up 33-22. Besides strong defense, Millikan dominated the boards.

Ram senior guards Jaslyn Cosey and Ashley Mitchell put up 12 and nine points, respectively. For the Grizzlies, senior guard Amanda Copas scored 13 points and North Carolina-bound center Cierra Warren had eight. Going into the game, Warren's point average was 19.1.

Millikan advances to the Division I-AA quarterfinal.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Los Angeles City Section scores from last night

#1 Chatsworth 71, #16 Locke, 21

#8 Dorsey 72, #9 Palisades 70

#5 Carson 65, #12 Granada Hills 33

#4 Faifax 65, #13 Banning

#3 Washington Prep 70, #14 Birmingham 28

#6 El Camino Real 60, #11 Venice 44

#7 Westchester 50, #10 Crenshaw 48

#2 Taft 52, #15 Narbonne 38

No surprises whatsoever, and of course the teams closest in rank had the tightest games. I bet the Dorsey-Palisades matchup was a heart-attacker.

Round 2, the quarter-finals, will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the sites of the higher-ranked teams. The matchups look like this:

Dorsey at Chatsworth

Carson at Fairfax

El Camino Real at Washington Prep

Westchester at Taft

The winners of the first two games then play each other Friday, Feb. 27, as do the winners of the third and fourth games. Chatsworth will beat Dorsey, but the Carson-Fairfax game is a toss-up - either team could win.

Washington will beat El Camino Real, and Taft will defeat Westchester. This will set up a re-match of the "defibrilators required" game covered in this blog Dec. 12 ("Taft 48, Washington Prep 46").

Whoever survives next Friday's round will advance to the finals on Saturday, March 7 at USC's Galen Center.

Last night I went to the Washington Prep-Birmingham matchup. I didn't take notes, because I don't do so in blowout, aka ass whoopin, games. No disrespect to Birmingham, because they played hard from buzzer to buzzer. But Washington is extremely athletic, and they were visibly driven last night. The adage that good teams take it up a few notches during the playoffs is true for the Washington Generals, as they were clicking on all cylinders against Birmingham.

Washington junior guard Kejuana Gardner finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore center Reshanda Gray added 20 points and eight boards. Junior guards Kiana Furlow and Tayllor Gipson had 11 and 10 points, respectively.

This week I've also decided one thing once and for all: high school ball is my first love. College and pro are fun, but for me, true passion comes from prep hoops.

Is it Wednesday yet?

Friday, February 20, 2009

As the WNBA turns

Rumors that Yolanda Griffith won't return to the Storm this summer are official - she just signed with the Indiana Fever:

http://www.wnba.com/fever/news/fever_signs_yolanda_griffith.html

In the meantime, a poster on a message board says that "a trade or two is about to happen" involving Tina Thompson and Lauren Jackson:

http://www.boards.rebkell.net/viewtopic.php?t=46732&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

Could Lauren Jackson, who has said Seattle is the only place she'll ever play, be leaving the Storm?

Mechelle Voepel: Tennessee fans, get a grip

However, I’d like to take the opportunity to say to any Tennessee fans who are freaking out: Chill. Welcome to your very brief sojourn into how the other 95 percent (or more) lives. Buy Debby Jennings’ terrific “Vault of Basketball” book to get you through this trying time. You’ll notice it has EIGHT national championship trophies on the cover.

Not all of Orange Nation is loosing its grip, of course. Some fans are being very reasonable, even good-humored. They saw a lot of this coming in the Season of the Rocky Top Rookies, although perhaps not the additional blows of losing Cait McMahan and Vicki Baugh to injury.

Others, though, have lost perspective or never really had any - because Tennessee has been so freaking good for so long, fans didn’t have to develop it. Vol expert writer Maria Cornelius jokingly said when I was in Knoxville last month that she stays fairly busy just trying to (figuratively) talk fans down from ledges.

The reality? Tennessee is a team of teeny-boppers, including 19-year-old sophomore Angie Bjorklund, whose game-face expression is starting to resemble that of somebody who just woke up and is gradually realizing she’s in one of those “Saw” movies.


(Go to her blog at wordpress.com)

I appreciate this entry. I am one of those optimistic fans, but last night's loss did surprise me, and it bothered me. After reading all the "world is ending" posts on the Summitt message board, I didn't have anything to say about the game.

But Voepel is right: there will be a tomorrow. And her humor is appreciated.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Southern Section scores, day one

Orange Lutheran 73, El Segundo 46
Gahr 74, La Quinta 53
Troy 57, Jordan 29
JSerra Catholic 62, Estancia 20
Huntington Beach 68, Kaiser 47
Segerstrom 43, Loara 26
Marina 60, Mission Viejo 52
Northwood 52, Garden Grove 49
Orangewood Academy 49, Hillcrest Christian/Granada Hills 17
Rancho Alamitos 61, Pacifica 43
Rosary 83, Godinez 28
University 62, Saddleback 25
Santa Margarita 63, Savanna 38
Edison 59, Sunny Hills 27
Great Oak 72, Tesoro 41
El Dorado 66, Westminster 46
El Toro 50, Righetti 30
Cypress 53, Mayfair 36
Esperanza 68, California 43
Valencia 72, Burroughs 54
Canyon 60, Palm Springs 23
Calvary Chapel/Santa Ana 46, Whitney 35
Brea Olinda 88, La Serna 14
Irvine 49, Palm Desert 41
Fullerton 49, Rowland 20
Royal 54, Century 33
Katella 60, Serrano 25
Villa Park 69, Simi Valley 32
Laguna Hills 47, South Torrance 37
Valley Christian/Cerritos at Sage Hill Sonora 61, Wilson/Hacienda Heights 41
Westridge 68, Fairmont Prep 36
Saddleback Valley Christian 57, Crean Lutheran South 22
Knight 70 Hesperia 33
LB Millikan 68 Quartz Hill 55
Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 56 Littlerock 31
Wilson 67, Schurr 55
Millikan 68, Quartz Hill 55
Poly 65, Paramount 15

Check this blog out: http://socalbasketball.blogspot.com/

City Section starts tomorrow! Like the Jackson Five, I'll be there.

Tales of two Bruins

Very moving piece on the ways center Moniquee Alexander coped with the death of her mother to breast cancer when she was 11 years old:

http://www.sgvtribune.com/sports/ci_11703434

Coach Nikki Caldwell proved to be a confidant for Alexander right after they met:

"She's positive and humbled by it," Caldwell said. "She has such an amazing heart. She has a gentle soul in that big body of her's."

Then there's today's story in the Daily Bruin (bless that newspaper for all the coverage they've given the team) about reserve guard Allison Taka. Under the former coach, Taka sat on the bench, and as a result, lost all her confidence. Caldwell and her teammates have helped restore that:

In that meeting, Taka said she made it clear to her new head coach that she was concerned with the apparent lack of a role she had on the team. Caldwell, however, was quick to soothe those concerns, falling back on what has become a team mantra over the course of a season.
“She did have concerns,” Caldwell said. “Our meeting was about her getting to know what my expectations were of her. I wasn’t basing those expectations on anything except what we’ve seen this year.”


“I told her minutes are going to be earned, never given, and she’s earned it.”

Taka now comes off the bench regularly and is relied on to hit shots from the outside, provide an energy boost and challenge opponents defensively. It is a role reversal that has taken some time to get used to. Coaches and teammates have all made an effort to help Taka establish confidence in her playing ability, something the guard says has been difficult.

“It’s taken me awhile to start believing in myself, to really grasp that everyone was important, from the starters to the bench players,” Taka said. “It’s still hard for me to grasp that I actually have an important role.”

Now that's awesome.

Link: http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/2009/feb/19/takas-work-ethic-earns-her-fans/

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

McDonald's All-American teams picked

No surprises on either roster. And there are several other players who could have made this roster as well, except for the amount of talent in this class. The quality of the game is rising on every level.

The game is April 1 in Miami.

Link to McDonald's site: http://www.mcdonaldsallamerican.com/

"Lost" season at Rutgers

This is a sad piece, featuring an interview with Rutgers senior Heather Zurich, whose senior year has been marked by sadness and frustration:

http://www.app.com/article/CN/20090217/SPORTS0203/902170353/1002/SPORTS

Mike Flynn of Bluestar Basketball bets that there will be a "mass exodus" of players leaving the Scarlet Knight program at the end of the year, in the last post on this thread:

http://www.bluestarbb.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=47&sid=f5f6f151ad5d128682ab54707175272e

Dang.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sparks to hold open tryouts

I don't know if this is a publicity stunt or not. I mean, do they really expect to get a player off the streets with so much unused talent in the WNBA, i.e. at least two teams worth of players who got cut last year? Also, with the new 11-player limit this year?

Link: http://www.wnba.com/sparks/community/2009_Sparks_Open_Tryouts.html

And who's Angela Bryant?

February Madness: it's on like donkey kong!

City Section bracket here:

http://www.cif-la.org/ourpages/auto/2009/2/2/55837884/_08-_09GirlsD1.xls?rn=1054526

For the Southern Section, go to this page:

http://www.cifss.org/

Under the sports tab hit 'basketball,' 'girls basketball' and then 'playoff brackets.' There are multiple spread sheets with brackets in all divisions.

City Section playoffs start Friday, and Southern Section games begin tomorrow.

I'm so excited!!!! This is my favorite time of year, the next six weeks.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shekinna Stricklen is tough as hell

The girl dislocated her kneecap in Thursday's game. Got therapy after that, and according to Knoxville-based scout.com reporter Maria Cornelius, she practiced today and didn't even have a limp. She's going to play in tomorrow's game against Duke:

Tennessee Lady Vols' guard Shekinna Stricklen took part in Sunday's practice and will play against 4th ranked Duke Monday night.
Stricklen hit her knee in a collision in the Alabama game and was carried from the floor. When she returned on crutches, her right leg was iced.
Associate Athletic Director Jenny Moshak said Stricklen was cleared completely for practice and to play after responding well to rehab on the injury.
Stricklen leads the Lady Vols in scoring at 13.2 points per game.

Link: http://www.wbir.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=78079&catid=2

I'm bowled over.


Stricklen had already crawled into my heart with her own lion-sized heart, chest thumping and bumping ways, fearlessness and offensive prowess. This latest warp-speed recovery indicates just how much she wants to play, and so it has locked her into my heart solidly, for the next four years.


I should probably go look for some pictures of the girl now. I'm going to need them.

What's up in the land of Troy??

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe tallied a career-high 27 points to lead an impressive offensive effort as Arizona posted a 74-61 win over host USC, Sunday afternoon in Pac-10 play at the Galen Center.

Two days ago, Arizona shot a season-low 22 percent from the field and tallied just 39 points in a 19-point loss to UCLA. Fast forward a little less than 72 hours and the Wildcats turned those numbers completely around.

Arizona scorched the nets for a season-best .605 shooting percentage, connecting on 26-of-43 field goals. The Wildcats also tallied their second highest point total of the season and most since recording 71 against the Trojans at McKale Center exactly one month ago.

The shooting numbers were in stark contrast to a pair of other columns on the stat sheet. The Wildcats were outrebounded, 43-33, and allowed a staggering 30 boards on the offensive end to the Trojans. Arizona also committed 28 turnovers that led to 27 USC points.

Poor shooting by USC turned the tables for the Wildcats as the Trojans were a woeful 24-of-82 (.293) from the field and 9-of-37 (.243) from three-point range. The Trojans also committed 21 turnovers and the Wildcats were efficient in creating 24 points off of those miscues.

A 5-for-5 start by Ify Ibekwe highlighted a 12-for-14 (.857) opening 15 minutes of play as the Wildcats built a 26-19 lead. Despite committing eight turnovers during that stretch, the Wildcats forced 11 giveaways and limited USC to a 7-for-24 (.292) clip.

The Wildcats used a 10-0 run to build a 30-19 lead over a 3:44 stretch. Ibekwe connected on the first two buckets, then added the final two points of the stretch while USC committed six turnovers and missed seven-straight shots before a jumper by Ashley Corral at the 2:35 mark broke the run.

Any momentum the Wildcats carried with their 32-26 halftime lead was gone within the opening 3:04 of the second half. Arizona committed four early turnovers, made just 1-of-3 shots and allowed USC to two more offensive rebounds to produce a 9-2 start and a 35-34 lead for the Trojans.

A tongue-lashing from head coach Niya Butts woke the Wildcats up and produced a quick response. Courtney Clements drilled a three-ball in the corner, then Ibekwe produced a steal and a conventional three-point play to regain a 40-35 cushion.

A jumper by Nadia Parker at the 14:38 mark drew the Trojans within a bucket at 43-41, but the Wildcats seized control of the game to build a lead they would not relinquish. Amina Njonkou drove the lane for a scooping lay-up that sparked a game-clinching 11-0 scoring run over the next 4:52. Ashley Frazier finished off the run with a transition lay-up as the Wildcats eventually stretched the lead to as much as 18 and never let the lead slip below double digits.

Ibekwe hit 10-of-14 field goal attempts and all seven of her free throws while also pulling down eight rebounds and grabbing three steals. Frazier, Clements and Njonkou each had 12 points while Faihza Hill had nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Heather Oliver tallied 15 points to lead USC (12-11, 6-6), but they all came down the stretch after the Cats had put the game away. Brynn Cameron tallied 13 points while Nadia Parker had 9 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

Arizona (10-14, 3-10) returns home for a three-game homestand, starting on Saturday, February 21 against in-state rival Arizona State with tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m.

http://www.arizonaathletics.com/sports/w-baskbl/recaps/021509aaa.html

Though I'm happy for Arizona, I'm shocked that USC let another one slip through its fingers. They are now 12-11 and 6-6 in the Pac-10.

Supporters of Coach Mark Trakh will point to the number of injuries team members have sustained over the last several years as to why the Trojans always seem to underachieve. Mark Trakh critics will point to the other NCAA teams (Cal, Tennessee, etc) which see significant player injuries but still keep rolling on to wins.

Is it bad player rotation by the coach into the game? Is it mental collapses on the court? What is it?? And what should be done about it??

In other shocks, North Carolina State beat #15 Virginia on this final day of breast cancer awareness weekend; I suppose that was fitting.

Unranked LSU beat #11 Florida, and Maryland whooped Rutgers, 67-47 (the Scarlet Knights is another case where I wonder what is going on).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Arizona State 69, UCLA 66






Going backwards through today's game, from the top: Coach Nikki Caldwell conducts her post-game interview; the team's energy is high breaking from a timeout in the final minute; there is a lot of pink on the floor on both sides (pictures 2 and 3); UCLA bench in pink.


They tried. They really did. And they almost had them. If Doreena Campbell had hit that second free throw, and if the ref hadn't made that phony call right afterwards.......but what ifs aren't worth much.

I liked the energy I saw today on the court. They believe they could do it, and they almost did. With every game, the Bruins get closer and closer to that 40-minute game their coaches want them to have. They're taking big steps.

Weird: ASU shot about 65 percent in the first half and 35 percent in the second. UCLA shot about 35 in the first half and 65 in the second.

Here's the story off the UCLA site:

Los Angeles, CA - UCLA was edged out in the final minute against Arizona State and fell to the Sun Devils by a 69-66 count. The Bruins had a chance to tie the game with 4.6 seconds left but missed the second of two foul shots. Erica Tukiainen led four Bruins in double-digit scoring with 17 points.
UCLA missed six of its first seven shot attempts in the contest and fell behind 11-2 at the 15:54 mark. The Bruins recovered from the sluggish start and trimmed a 10-point deficit to just three, 20-17 at the 10:04 mark, with an 11-4 run. However, the Sun Devils answered with eight straight points to take a 28-17 lead with 8:32 remaining in the first half. UCLA never got closer than seven points the rest of the half, and ASU took a 37-27 advantage into the locker room at the break. Arizona State scored 19 of its points off of 13 UCLA turnovers. The Sun Devils converted 16 of 25 first-half shots for a 64 percent shooting percentage.ASU senior guard Briann January led all scorers at the half with 10 points, hitting all four of her field goal attempts.

UCLA opened the second half by connecting on three of its first five shots and sliced the ASU lead to 39-36 on a pair of free throws by freshman guard Atonye Nyingifa at the 13:56 mark. Nyingifa scored the Bruins' last basket of the first half and seven of the UCLA's first nine second-half points. The Bruins closed to within one-point, 42-41 on a basket and free throw by Tukiainen at the 12:06 mark. The Bruins took their first lead in the contest, 54-53, on a lay-in by junior center Moniquee Alexander with 5:38 to play.

After four lead changes, Tukiainen's three-point shot made the score 62-61 ASU with 1:57 to play. Sybil Dosty rebounded a January missed three-pointer and layed it in for a 64-61 Sun Devil advantage with 1:38 on the clock. Dymond Simon then made one of two free throws for a 65-61 ASU lead with 57 seconds to play. Alexander's rebound basket with 42 seconds to play cut the lead to two points. After January was called for an offensive foul, Doreena Campbell drove to the basket for a layup with 29 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 65. After a pair of free throws by Simon gave the Sun Devils the lead back, Campbell was fouled by Dosty and went to the line with 4.6 seconds remaining to try to force overtime. The Bruin sophomore made the first but missed the second, and ASU's Becca Tobin grabbed the rebound. UCLA fouled Simon with 0.6 remaining, and Simon drained both foul shots to provide the final margin of victory.

Tukiainen led UCLA with 17 points. Campbell added 15 points with six assists, Nyingifa scored a career-high 13 points with seven rebounds, and Alexander had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and five rebounds, all offensive. January scored 21 points for ASU, and Simon joined her in double figures with 19 as the Sun Devils won their school record 11th consecutive game.

"We got back into the game with our defense," said UCLA head coach Nikki Caldwell. "We did a good job in limiting their opportunities. It was a good team effort to stay in it and get back into the game with potentially the opportunity to go into overtime."

Saturday's game was a special breast cancer awareness game. UCLA wore white and pink uniforms, while Arizona State wore pink uniforms for the occasion. UCLA's jerseys will be auctioned off on UCLABruins.com, with proceeds to be divided between the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center and the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Education & Resource Center.

It was really something to see so much pink at Pauley Pavilion today, both on the players and in the audience. An interview with Bruin center Moniquee Alexander was played at halftime, where she talked about her mother's battle with breast cancer and her passing. It was quite moving.

I just wish all of our yelling today could have cheered the coaches, because at least one seemed more upset than the players after they came out of the locker room.

Celebrity sighting: Sparks General Manager Penny Toler, who was sitting in the section across from ours.

Inglewood Sentinels 54, Mira Costa Mustangs 43

The Inglewood Sentinels haven't had many game challenges lately, as their schedule the last several weeks has been mostly blowouts. But they got one last night in the Mira Costa Mustangs, who kept it close until only the last four minutes of the game on Inglewood's home floor.

The Sentinels got off to a fast start in the first, on the strength of the scoring of Oregon State University signee Tayler Champion and Renee Golliday. But Mira Costa battled back behind their star players Jasmine Rutledge and Amanda Johnson. The Sentinels lead 22-18 at the end of the period.

Playing a 1-3-1 defense, the Mustangs clamped down in the second quarter, and Inglewood began turning over the ball. Rutledge again lead the scoring attack, and her team was up 27-26 at the 3:42 mark. But when Mira Costa changed to a loose 2-3 zone, Inglewood seemed to suddenly realize they could attack the basket, and they did, drawing a foul. The half ended with the Sentinels up 31-30.

The home team began to pull away in the third, but with just over three minutes left, the Mustangs fought back. A long three by Johnson cut Inglewood's lead to 39-35, and Rutledge's crazy-good shot cut it even further, ending the period 39-37.

In the fourth quarter, the Sentinels put their foot on the gas pedal and took control. They had built an eight-point lead by 3:22, when Hazel Ramirez threw up a wild shot which went in as she was fouled. On the other end, Rutledge's shot was blocked, but incredibly, she caught the deflected ball. Yet her second attempt didn't go in and the ball went into Sentinel hands, enabling them to continue their attack. The score was 54-40 with 1:24 left, and only Kylie Nakamine scored - a three - for the Mustangs before time expired.

Mira Costa has excellent ball movement. Team members always seem to know where the others will be when they're running a play or just winging it. Inglewood's strength is in their athleticism, which is likely why they played man defense all night.

Rutledge finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Johnson put up 14. As of right now, Inglewood coaches have not yet put up game stats for their team on maxpreps.

This game was interesting in an "it's a small basketball world" kind of way, too.

For one, Inglewood reserve guard Brionne Brister is Sparks center Lisa Leslie's niece, and Leslie comes to most games, fans said. (She wasn't there last night because she is reportedly attending the NBA All-Star game this weekend). Leslie's younger sister also attends Inglewood games, and was sitting behind the bench last night.

Three USC players walked into the game during the second quarter and took seats in the bleachers. I recognized Hailey Dunham, and I think the second one was Aarika Hughes. I couldn't get a good glimpse at the third player. But after the game, Rutledge - a junior - ran across the court to say hi to the Trojan players, and all four stood there for a moment, laughing and talking.

USC Coach Mark Trakh's detractors aside, he does seem to have a knack for recruiting.

Sentinel fans said Coach Tony Scott disappeared from the bench for a while after the forfeits were announced in January. He is back now, in an assistant coach role. But he is still pretty much the only coach standing and yelling directions at the team during play, though his seat is on the end of the bench. So perhaps the assistant coach job is in name only.

Here's the Inglewood bench last night: Scott is standing, at the right. Leslie's niece is the second player in on the left. Leslie's sister is wearing the red shirt behind the bench.


WBCA All-American team named

In my enamoration (is that a word?) of Dawn Staley's forage into intramurals last night, I forgot to add the WBCA's selections for All-American team:

Kelsey Bone
Mariah Chandler
Layshia Clarendon
Skylar Diggins
Nikki Green
Brittney Griner
Krista Gross
Jasmine Hassell
Tayler Hill
Stephanie Holzer
Monique Oliver
Sam Ostarello
Cokie Reed
Waltia Rolle
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt
Taber Spani
DeNesha Stallworth
Joslyn Tinkle
Markel Walker
Destiny Williams

No surprises on that list, but check out the second (honorable mention) list - that is another team of ridiculously good players:

http://www.wbca.org/releases/HSAATeamPR2009.html

I'm excited to see so many good ballers coming up.

The All-American game will be Saturday, April 4 in St. Louis, MO - the site of this year's Final Four.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dawn Staley, Carla McGhee try intramurals to ease the tension

Dawn Staley didn't let bad knees get her down during her playing career, and she's not letting a disappointing first season as South Carolina's head coach get to her either. She and assistant coach Carla McGhee have joined an intramural team which played its first game Monday night. Of course, Staley still has some of the old razzle-dazzle left. And she is still in charge:

McGhee, who played with Staley on the 1996 Olympic team in Atlanta, said Staley remains the consummate floor general, even in an intramural game.

“She’s going to handle the show,” said McGhee, who had a 13-year pro career. “It’s fun until you mess up one of her passes because you missed the layup. You’re cut off.”

Midway through the first half, nearly all of USC’s players had filed into the gym to see if their coaches could still play. They howled when Staley was short on a free throw, and they had their camera phones ready when she came to the sideline during a timeout.

“Paparazzi, get them out of here!” Staley shouted.

http://www.thestate.com/gogamecocks/story/683531.html

WBCA names Brittney Griner high school player of the year

No surprise, but the Women's Basketball Coaches Association has named Brittney Griner the State Farm/WBCA High School Player of the year.

Griner is currently ranked No.1 in the country by ESPN HoopGurlz and many other publications. She holds the national record for most blocks in a single game with 25. 6-foot-8-inch center, who has been on the cover of ESPN Rise Magazine, is often seen firing up the crowd with one of her signature dunks as she averages two dunks a game. This season Griner is averaging a team best 27 points, 13 rebounds and 11 blocks and has led her team to a 24-1 ledger.

Link: http://www.wbca.org/releases/HSPOYPR2009.html

I can't wait to see her play in college.

UCLA 58, Arizona 39

The UCLA bench. Rutgers transfer Jasmine Dixon, third from left, smiles a lot during games.

Coach Niya Butts calls out instructions to her Arizona team.

Coach Butts greeted all four UCLA coaches with hugs before the game.

Tennessee vs. Tennessee: Coaches Caldwell and Butts.

I thought I'd do a bit of a pictorial story-teller on last night's game, rather than the standard game report.

The box score says it all - the only thing poppin' for the Wildcats last night was Ify Ibekwe and her double-double. I talked to Coach Niya Butts for a moment after the game, and I thought she was being too hard on herself when she said they were "terrible," but then I saw they only shot 11.5 in the second half. Yikes! I haven't seen a shooting percentage that low.

Arizona really did look better and more improved. They have better ball movement and run a pretty good defense. But when they get to the rack or try to make a shot, things fall apart. As one of my section mates (also a section mate at Sparks games) said, "things look pretty good until they take a shot."

For UCLA's part, Coach Nikki Caldwell seemed pleased during the post-game interview. She acknowledged Erica Tukiainen's career-high 21 points, and gave credit to freshman Antonye Nyngifa, who has started the last several games and has produced points each time. However, Caldwell said the team "has to get more people involved" in the offensive production.

Consistency seems to be a problem for the Bruins. Doreena Campbell was her usual scoring self, but coming up with a big blank slate was center Moniquee Alexander. Chinyere Ibekwe, Ify's sister, scored only four points.

Bad news for the Bruins:

Darxia Morris has been suspended indefinitely from the team for violating team rules. Also, Candice Brown's knee injury has rendered her out for the season.

Other notes:

- There were lots of friends and family in the audience for Los Angeles natives the Ibekwes, and for Arizona guard Reiko Thomas. Former Bruin Noelle Quinn's young nieces, who frequently attend games, were "guest coaches" on the UCLA bench - and they were pretty happy about it. The girls are also friends with the Ibekwe family.
- That tradition Caldwell instituted where the incoming player brings the player she's replacing a towel? Arizona does it too. It's a Tennessee thang, baby.

Next up for the Bruins is ASU tomorrow. It's also the breast cancer awareness game, so players will be wearing pink. I will have to wear sunglasses.

Inglewood High School having a good season despite forfeits

The Inglewood High School girl’s basketball team had to forfeit their first 14 games of the season last month, after two players were found to be ineligible for participation.

Both Inglewood Assistant Principal Randolph Simpson and CIF Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons confirmed the ineligible players and forfeits, but both declined further comment on the matter.

The Torrance-based Daily Breeze reported in January that the forfeitures resulted from the participation of Deajeana Scurry and Bailey Barbour, both of whom transferred to Inglewood before the season.

Scurry, who played for Washington Prep High School last year as a freshman, was on Inglewood Coach Tony Scott’s club team, the Cal Sparks, last summer. The Breeze reported that Inglewood then looked at the transfers of two other players: Barbour and Makeda Beadle from Leuzinger High School.

Beadle was cleared, and Barbour was suspended until her residency was established by her parent’s divorce papers, according to the Breeze. On Inglewood’s maxpreps.com team roster, Barbour is still listed. Scurry has been playing for Inglewood's JV team since being ruled ineligible for varsity.

Of the 14 games the varsity team forfeited, nine were wins. Since the forfeits, Inglewood has lost only once, Feb. 4, to Santa Monica. The Sentinels have consistently been ranked in the top 10 in California. If not for the forfeits, the team's record would be 25-2.

Inglewood will play their last regular-season home game tonight at 6 p.m., against Mira Costa. I will be in the house.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Candace Parker on Pat Summitt

I THINK PAT is omniscient. Anytime one of us thought we got away with something—on the court or in everyday life—we'd end up getting summoned to her office, where she'd cross her arms, shake her head and stare straight through us with those crystal-blue eyes.

Link: http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1151747/index.htm

Tennessee club team mega-merger

The two biggest club teams in the Tennessee region have merged, prompting some to call it a "stranglehold" on club basketball in the region.

Tennessee Mega-Merger

Tennessee Flight in Washington D.C. By Kenny Kallina
National Director of Scouting
Posted Feb 10, 2009

The 2008 Nike National Champion Tennessee Flight and Tennessee Team Pride have merged to put a strangle hold on the club basketball scene in Tennessee. The Flight who have been existence in one form or another for the past twenty years have been led by the Insell family which is synonymous with basketball in the Volunteer state.

The Flight are currently led by Tom Insell the son of high school coaching legend Rick Insell who is currently the head coach at Middle Tennessee State University. Since being hired at Middle Tennessee State, Insell has won two Sun Belt Championships in three seasons and placed two players in the WNBA.

After Rick Insell took the Middle Tennessee State job the Flight (formerly known as Shelbyville Sports Shop) were then taken over by Matt Insell who spent one season as the Director of Basketball Operations at Louisiana Tech before landing as an assistant at the University of Kentucky. Once Matt and Rick were at the college level, the current director of the Flight, Tom, son of Rick and brother of Matt, took over.

While the Flight had dominated club basketball in the South for decades under Rick and Matt Insell, one championship had always evaded them until 2008, the Nike National Championship. “Winning Nike Nationals was our goal the entire season and we were proud to achieve it for the state of Tennessee and for Nike,” said Tom Insell. “Even though my brother and father were not on the bench at Nike Nationals, we all won it for them and the time and effort they put in over there years to create the Flight program.”

According to a joint press release, the Flight and Pride have had over 30 athletes sign grant-in-aid scholarships in the class of 2009. This season the Flight and Pride plan to host the Showtime Shootout, Southeast Challenge, and the Battle in the Boro.

Tennessee Team Pride has been ranked in the top 10 AAU Clubs since 2004 and has won two AAU National Titles in the last three years. Some of the alumni from the programs include Alysha Clark (Middle Tennessee State); Jasmine Hassell (Georgia); Glory Johnson (Tennessee); Jasmine James (Georgia); and Faith Dupree (Tennessee).

“We really wanted to work together and unify the state on the club basketball scene in the best interest of all parties” said Insell. While this merger does not come out of necessity, like the merger in New York this past week, it may not have a significant impact on this club basketball season at the highest levels but will significantly affect the future of club basketball in several ways.

Tennessee Team Pride the past few years has had some of the top young teams in the country and their development along with the Flight’s connections around the South will be a big time partnership to create dominant teams in the future. Secondly, it is a big win for Nike who had missed out on players like Glory Johnson because of the Pride’s original affiliation with Adidas and Mike White.

For Adidas and White this hurts because it is one fewer team regionally they will get at their exposure events. With these two teams working together it leaves teams like Memphis Elite and the Memphis Bobcats on an island of their own now.

The Flight returns national elite 2010 players Valencia McFarland of Mississippi who has already committed to Ole Miss and LaQuinta Jefferson of LaVergne, Tennessee. Along with Jefferson and McFarland the Flight are on the market coast to coast for some of the top talent in the country and it would not be surprising to anyone if they take the Nike National Crown again.

“Playing with the Flight changed my recruiting 100%; it was a great experience playing for Coach Insell and I enjoyed playing with the players on the Flight” said former Flight player Ashley Jones who left the Nike Orlando Comets Red last spring to join the Flight. Jones will be attending Mississippi State University on a full scholarship next year; “It is tough to compare any program in the country to the Flight because of their history and the things they can do for their players.”

Obviously Tennessee Team Pride will begin to reap those benefits this travel season and this merger will sustain both programs for some time to come. Tom Insell summed it up pretty well: “I have always respected and admired the program Team Pride has run. I am very excited to stop competing with them and start working with them this summer.”


Link: http://fullcourt.scout.com/a.z?s=427&p=2&c=838315

Selection, location, S-curves.....good lord

Soon the NCAA committee will begin its selection process for the March tournament. Charlie Creme, writing for ESPN, was one media member invited to partake in a mock selection process recently.

Perhaps most controversial for fans is where certain teams play their games. For instance, why would a Florida team not play in the Tampa Bay regional and be sent to Oklahoma City instead? Creme provides a good explanation:

Location, location, location

This was probably the greatest area of clarification for someone who has put together his fair share of brackets, the subject from which most of my questions on Selection Monday are derived.

Once the S-curve is established, teams are placed in the bracket, starting at the top. But are teams placed according to S-curve ranking (i.e., the No. 1 overall in the same regional as the No. 8 overall, No. 2 with No. 7, and so on) or are they placed based on their geographical proximity to that particular regional? Because the committee doesn't release its S-curve, that was sometimes difficult to tell. Well, now we have the answer: geography.

The teams are taken in order of their S-curve standing and are then placed in the nearest regional. For instance, say Louisville is No. 5 on the S-curve. With all four regionals still open for 2-seeds, the Cardinals would go to Raleigh, N.C., because it's closest. It would not necessarily matter whether that's where the No. 4 overall team was also placed.

The only exception to this in 2009 is that California, regardless of where the Bears come up on the S-curve, can't be placed in the Berkeley Regional because they have played more than three games at Haas Pavilion this season. That's a situation unique to this season, however. Otherwise, the geography-first principle stays in place.


Link: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/columns/story?columnist=creme_charlie&id=3894343

High school post-season on tap

Across the country this week, high school basketball teams are wrapping up their regular season schedule and the good teams are preparing for post-season playoffs. Thus begins seven or eight weeks of excitment, as high school playoffs merge right into the NCAA tournament.

ESPN/Rise released its new list of the national top 50 high school teams yesterday. The top teams are unchanged, which is no surprise.

ESPN RISE FAB 50 Girls Basketball Rankings (Feb. 11)

Rank Team (Location) Record Previous Ra
nk

1 South Bend Washington (South Bend, Ind.) 21-0 1
2 Ben Davis (Indianapolis) 23-0 2
3 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 25-0 3
4 Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.) 21-1 4
5 Murry Bergtraum (New York City) 20-0 5
6 St. Michael Academy (New York City) 20-2 6
7 Whitney Young (Chicago) 26-1 7
8 Oak Ridge (Tenn.) 22-2 8
9 Bolingbrook (Ill.) 16-4 9
10 Heritage Christian (Indianapolis) 20-1 10
11 Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 20-1 11
12 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) 27-2 12
13 Detroit Community (Detroit) 13-0 13
14 Westlake (Atlanta) 20-1 14
15 Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) 20-0 15
16 Archbishop Carrol (Radnor, Pa.) 20-1 16
17 Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.) 16-0 17
18 Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati) 16-1 18
19 Millington (Tenn.) 26-2 19
20 Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) 16-4 20
21 St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) 20-3 21
22 Westbury Christian (Houston) 39-1 22
23 University (Newark, N.J.) 12-3 23
24 Nimitz (Houston) 30-1 24
25 Butler (Matthews, N.C.) 21-1 29
26 Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) 19-0 26
27 Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) 22-2 27
28 Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.) 25-0 28
29 Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) 22-2 30
30 Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.) 28-3 37
31 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) 16-2 31
32 Lower Richland (Hopkins, S.C.) 19-1 32
33 St. John Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.) 18-1 33
34 Sparkman (Harvest, Ala.) 29-1 25
35 Cajon (San Bernadino, Calif.) 23-2 34
36 Memphis Central (Tenn.) 24-1 35
37 Wesleyan (Norcross, Ga.) 20-4 36
38 Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.) 22-2 38
39 Eleanor Roosvelt (Greenbelt, Md.) 14-1 40
40 West Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.) 18-3 41
41 East Mecklenburg (Charlotte, N.C.) 18-3 39
42 Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas) 24-3 42
43 Chaminade-Julienne (Dayton, Ohio) 12-5 43
44 Fayette County (Fayetteville, Ga.) 24-0 NR
45 Broomfield (Colo.) 19-0 44
46 Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers, Ind.) 19-1 46
47 ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) 19-1 47
48 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 15-5 48
49 Dulles (Sugar Land, Texas) 31-2 49
50 Highlands Ranch (Colo.) 17-2 50

Link: http://sports.espn.go.com/highschool/rise/basketball/girls/news/story?id=3898896

Teams are also ranked by region: http://sports.espn.go.com/highschool/rise/basketball/girls/news/story?id=3898984

In Los Angeles, draws will be made Saturday for city and regional playoff games, beginning next week.

Let the madness begin!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pat Summitt on Nikki Caldwell

Awww:

DB: I’m also told that she was known at Tennessee for being a great recruiter.

PS: She is a beautiful person inside and out. When she goes out to recruit, you’re talking about a great role model.

I think there is an appeal because of Nikki’s presence. I know the parents a lot of times would talk about “She is going to be a great role model for our daughter. We want our daughter to be like a Nikki Caldwell.”

The way she carries herself, she has such class and poise, she is a great-looking person, and she is just as good on the inside as she is on the outside.

DB: How have things been without her on the sidelines this year?

PS: I’ve missed her. And when we talk, I leave her messages and tell her, “I really, really miss you, but I’m so proud for you.”

I call because we were so close. We spent so much time together. I want to be staying in touch with her. And I am very happy for her.


Link: http://www.dailybruin.com/news/2009/feb/11/q-pat-summit/

Stormin' at the Storm

First, longtime Storm center Lauren Jackson goes on the market as a free agent a few weeks ago, and no one knows yet if or where she'll be playing in the WNBA next year.

Then the Storm waived Sheryl Swoopes.

Swin Cash is supposedly injured now. But the Storm has signed Janell Burse, who sat out last year with an injury, and Ashley Robinson, who is a sometimes-contributing bench player.

Now there are rumors floating around that Yolanda Griffith won't be returning to the Storm.

Looks like it'll be a long season for the Seattle faithful. It's starting to sound like the 2000 and 2001 seasons (and that isn't a good thing).

Monday, February 9, 2009

AP Poll, LA Times HS rankings, and fullcourt.com national rankings

AP Top 25

1.Connecticut (45)
2.Oklahoma
3.California
4.Duke
5.Auburn
6.Stanford
7.Baylor
8.North Carolina
9.Florida
10.Louisville
11.Maryland
12.Texas A&M
13.Texas
14.Florida St.
15.Tennessee
16.Iowa St.
17.Virginia
18.Ohio St.
19.Pittsburgh
20.Kansas St.
21.Xavier
22.Notre Dame
23.South Dakota St.
24.Vanderbilt
25.DePaul
Mon Feb 9, 2009

Link: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/womens-basketball/polls

LA Times California high school rankings, Feb. 6, by Melissa Rohlin:

1. Mater Dei (25-0) (1)
2. Brea Olinda (21-2) (2)
3. Cajon (23-2) (3)
4. Long Beach Poly (22-2) (4)
5. Foothill (23-1) (5)
6. Troy (22-1) (6)
7. Bell-Jeff (25-1) (8)
8. Summit (21-4) (9)
9. Santa Monica (18-6) (12)
10. Inglewood (10-15) (11)
11. Etiwanda (17-7) (16)
12. Chatsworth (16-8) (18)
13. Canyon Springs (18-6) (NR)
14. Woodbridge (21-3) (10)
15. Millikan (20-4) (7)
16. Muir (18-3) (15)
17. Pacific Hills (16-9) (17)
18. Orange Lutheran (21-2) (13)
19. St. Paul (16-8) (22)
20. Vista Del Lago (21-2) (NR)
21. Thousand Oaks (20-4) (NR)
22. Santa Margarita (13-10) (NR)
23. Agoura (21-3) (24)
24. Edison (18-4) (NR)
25. Bishop Amat (19-5) (25)

Check out Kenny Kallina's national top 25:

http://girlshoops.scout.com/2/837401.html

Mater Dei on top of the whole country!

Not surprising to me.

Quick trip to the top for Teresa Weatherspoon? And Sheryl Swoopes speaks

Louisiana Tech has fired Chris Long as its head coach, and made assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon the interim head coach. The only surprise here is that they didn't wait to fire Long until after the season. But who else should be the head coach now besides alumni Spoon?

Um, nobody.

http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20090209/UPDATES02/90209023

Meanwhile, 2000 miles to the west, Sheryl Swoopes shares more about being cut from the Storm last week. She said she didn't expect the cut at all.

I've also heard from a very reliable source that Swoopes is pretty bitter about the Storm's actions.

Link: http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com/storm/index.html#027556

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges update

I'm pausing with the head-thrashing to report that the Umpqua Community College women continue their winning ways with a win over Gresham last night. The Riverhawks are 21-2 and have been ranked number 1 in the NWAACC coaches poll all season long.

GRESHAM — Roseburg High graduate Kristi Fallin scored 33 points and freshman point guard Mykiea Russell turned in a solid effort as the top-ranked Umpqua Community College women’s basketball team beat Mt. Hood 89-78 Saturday in Southern Region play.

Russell had 17 points and five assists while only committing two turnovers for the Riverhawks (21-2, 8-1 NWAACC South), who held a one-point lead at halftime. Miranda Holenstein added 12 points and six rebounds, and Cassie Scheffelmaier had 12 points.

UCC outrebounded Mt. Hood, 45-36 and was led by Cassandra Tiggett’s nine boards.

Alex Melonson was the Saints’ only player to reach double figures with 19 points. She also had nine assists for Mt. Hood (12-10, 4-5).

The Riverhawks have maintained the NWAACC poll’s No. 1 ranking since the beginning of the season.

UMPQUA (89) — Kristi Fallin 11-20 6-6 33, Russell 5-10 6-8 17, Scheffelmaier 4-10 3-6 12, Holenstein 3-7 6-8 12, Tiggett 3-4 1-5 7, Takai 2-3 0-0 4, Wilton 0-3 2-2 2, Strawn 1-3 0-2 2, Owens 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-61 24-37 89.

MT. HOOD (78) — Alex Melonson 9-22 1-2 19, Beus 3-4 2-2 8, Ramos 3-6 0-0 7, Bahme 3-5 1-2 7, Yates 3-7 0-0 7, Ziegler 3-3 0-1 6, Cunningham 2-7 0-0 6, Campbell 2-5 0-0 6, Smith 2-4 0-0 5, Burroughs 2-5 0-0 5, Hodges 0-2 2-4 2, Bennett 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-71 7-13 78.

Halftime — UCC 44, Mt. Hood 43. 3-point goals — UCC 7-16 (Fallin 5-11, Russell 1-2, Scheffelmaier 1-3), M.H. 7-20 (Campbell 2-3, Cunningham 2-5, Ramos 1-3, Yates 1-3, Burroughs 1-2). Rebounds — UCC 45 (Tiggett 9), M.H. 36 (Smith 9). Assists — UCC 15 (Russell 5), M.H. 20 (Melonson 9). Total fouls — UCC 18, M.H. 26. Fouled out — Takai. Turnovers — UCC 16, M.H. 19.


Link: http://www.nrtoday.com/article/20090208/SPORTS/902089973/1056&title=Fallin%20scores%2033%20as%20UCC%20pulls%20away%20from%20Mt.%20Hood%3B%20Riverhawk%20men%20come%20up%20short%20in%20scoring%20fest

Way to go, Mykiea Russell! You are doing your hometown Los Angeles proud.

OK, back to the head-pounding.

USC 87, UCLA 76

From UCLA's website, because I don't have the energy to go through it again, after watching it:

Los Angeles, CA - UCLA outscored USC, 51-41, in the second half but could not overcome a 21-point halftime deficit, falling to the Trojans by an 87-76 count on Sunday afternoon at the Galen Center.

The Bruins led 6-2 to start the game, but poor shooting by UCLA, who missed 13 of their first 16 shots and shot just 21.9% in the half, allowed USC to quickly take a 17-11 lead with 10:43 to play in the half. UCLA used a 7-2 run over a minute and a half to close to within one, but the Trojans went on a 13-1 run to up their advantage to 32-19 with 4:45 to play in the half. USC took a 46-25 lead into halftime after closing the half with a 14-3 run. The 46 points by the Trojans were the most by a Bruin opponent this season.

Down by 21 points, the Bruins faced a major uphill climb but got off to a good start in the second half by scoring the first six points and using a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 14, 49-35. Doreena Campbell scored eight of the 10 points in the run. The Bruins closed the gap to 10 points, 55-45, after consecutive jumpers by Erica Tukiainen, Campbell and Atonye Nyingifa. USC, however, got the lead back up to 19, 68-49, with an 11-2 run.

However, UCLA quickly mounted another comeback with an 11-3 run over a minute and 43 seconds to pull to within 11, 73-62, with 5:36 to play. Three straight steals, two by Nyingifa and one by Tierra Henderson led to five of those points. A three-pointer by Tukiainen at 4:52 made it a 10-point game, 75-65, but the Bruins would not be able to get any closer.

Campbell led all players with 20 points, her fourth 20-point game of the season. Tukiainen had 14 points and a career-high four steals, and Nyingifa added a career-high tying 10 points and eight rebounds. Junior center Moniquee Alexander was the game's leading rebounder with a career-high 13 boards, seven offensive. She also tied her career-best with two blocks and added eight points.

Camille Lenoir and Heather Oliver led four USC players in double-figures with 19 points apiece.

UCLA's record drops to 14-7, 5-5 in the Pac-10. USC improves to 12-9, 6-4 in the Pac-10.

The Bruins will next host Arizona on Thursday, Feb. 12 at 7 pm in Pauley Pavilion.


(Link: http://uclabruins.cstv.com/sports/w-baskbl/recaps/020809aac.html)

Box score: http://uclabruins.cstv.com/sports/w-baskbl/stats/2008-2009/0208ucla.html

None of the above accurately conveys just how horribly UCLA played today. Their 21.9 percent shooting in the first half was abysmal. They were 3-16 for three-pointers. They just looked utterly discombobulated. Even when they mounted a comeback in the second half, it quickly fell apart.

Me and my crew of Spark fans observed that:

- UCLA let USC's defense punk them. Granted, the Trojans were putting on some great moves to defend their basket, but the Bruins didn't push back much. They just kept passing the ball. And passing, and passing, and passing, and passing........
- And what is up with that passing? They needed to take it to the rack but they were afraid to, so they kept throwing up stupid shots that they couldn't make. USC was hungrier today.
- Moniquee Alexander is a great person, but she needs to be more aggressive under the hoop. She put up three shots soft, and they didn't go in - not even close. She did get 13 rebounds, but she could have got at least 19 if she would use that big body of hers more. But this isn't a new issue with her - it's just something she hasn't corrected yet. Hopefully she will soon.
- The Bruins still stand around too much on offense. They need to pick it up, set more screens, flash more.
- Camille LeNoir is a stud. There were times today when she just put her team on her back. And she had two amazing, run-to-the-rack plays. I hope the Sparks draft her.
- Doreena Campbell is a stud. But she can't do it alone, people.

I turn my back to: referees Michael Price, Chuck Gonzalez and Jeneane Pence.

A horrendous crew of officials. WNBA fans already know how much Michael Price sucks, but I hadn't seen the other two before. Maybe Price rubbed off on them, because they were calling every ticky-tack BS thing they could think of, on both sides. At one point in the second half, they called a foul on a Bruin player, so the Trojan player stepped to the line for the free throw. On the rebound they called a foul on another Bruin player, sending a second Trojan to the line. After that throw, they called a foul on an SC player. It was at that point that the crowd began cat-calling. I yelled at them that I had to go to work tomorrow.

Kudos to: the 8721 that came out today as part of the "Day in Troy" campus tour (UCLA has one too when USC comes to that campus). It was great to see the Galen Center so full of fans.

As Tennessee lost to Florida at the same time UCLA was tanking, I'm going to go pound my head against the wall for a while before bedtime.

What's the deal with socalhoops.com?

No, I'm not talking about the lunatic people who post there (the only thing uglier than a miffed sports fan is a miffed parent of an athlete).

I'm talking about why their front page still carries advertisements for camps and events from 2004.

Two thousand freakin four, people. No lie.

I've asked why on the board twice in the last year. The first time the post was ignored, and the second time, it was taken down by the moderators. So obviously they're really attached to those five-year-old clinics.

I don't understand at all, but I'd like to. If anyone out there knows why the board owners continue to keep these ancient ads up, would you please let me know?

More Mater Dei-Cajon fallout, Brea Olinda news

Layshia Clarendon admitted her performance Friday night included a lot of acting:

They overcame an absolutely courageous 28-point effort from Clarendon, who, like a wounded prey, labored physically throughout the night.

The 5-8 senior, who has signed a letter of intent to Cal, fell hard to the floor at least a dozen times and often took unusually long rests not only between recovery time but free throws, clearly passing the obsolete and never-called 10-second rule.

Clarendon, later admitting her deliberate and dramatic ways were to give her thin squad a blow, never showed affects in performance. She swished 10 of 11 free throws and was 8 of 17 from the field, including a pair of three-pointers.

While constantly wincing and appearing labored, Clarendon was at her best in the second quarter when Cajon went on a 24-11 run. Despite being harassed by physical man pressure and double teams, she had 14 of them, scoring on driving, acrobatic runners, 3-pointers, pulls-ups and free throws.

The Cowboys also were ignited by three steals and a pair of baskets by sophomore Kori Walker.

Four straight free throws by Clarendon in the final 30 seconds of the half gave Cajon just its second lead, 32-31 at halftime.

This after a 14-2 run to end the first quarter, keyed by two 3-pointers from Haugen and six straight off the bench from Vaioletama, gave the Monarchs a 20-8 first-quarter lead.

Asked how she found the energy when it appeared she was so labored, Clarendon said the delays after whistles were key. Kiernan half-heartedly complained to the referees but later credited Clarendon for being smart. He called the holdups “pseudo timeouts” allowing the Cowboys to rest against the very long Monarchs bench.

“It’s a trick my father taught me a long time ago,” she said with a smile.


Link: http://www.maxpreps.com/FanPages/content/article.mxp/articleid-029e07e3-247d-4b4c-bb35-3faf6f34e960

I respect her honesty and intelligence, but I still say, why not just call some timeouts? Cajon barely called any, so they had plenty to use.

I don't get it.

Last night second-ranked Brea Olinda traveled up to Hanford and beat the number-seven team, 78-67. I'd love to dissect some stats, but neither coach has entered any on maxpreps.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Coach Swoopes

Though Sheryl Swoopes' professional future is uncertain after being cut by the Seattle Storm this week, she is having an amazing time this year coaching the Overlake School's basketball team of seventh- and eighth-graders. So far, Swoopes' Redmond team is 4-2.

This has worked out unbelievably well for Swoopes, who gets as much from this experience as the girls on her team. Besides playing for the Storm, she always thought there was another reason why she came to Seattle. Hard to believe she found it at this little school off Old Redmond Road.

Link: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/moore/398675_moore04.html

Funny, but coaching changed my life course too. We'll see what happens with Coach Swoopes, but I hope it's good things.

Mater Dei Monarchs 64, Cajon Cowgirls 56

Considering Mater Dei runs 16 deep to Cajon's nine - and that only five of those nine can actually play - the Cowgirls made it much more of a game than I thought they would. For that, I give them props; I thought they'd get whooped by the number one-ranked team in the country by at least 20.

But in the end, Cajon was worn down by the suffocating, relentless defense of its opponents, and by the tiers of Mater Dei players that always kept fresh legs in the game.

The game was neck-and-neck for the first half of the first quarter, with Cajon's Darshae Burnside and Mater Dei's Mya Oliver leading the charge for their teams. But then Monarch Coach Kevin Kiernan put in sophomore forward Alexyz Vaioletama, and the momentum shifted.

Vaioletama hit a velvety floater. One Cajon turnover later, she forced a shot in from the low post. At the first quarter buzzer, Vaioletama caught a very long pass and laid it up and in to put her team ahead 20-8.

She continued her assault in the second quarter, hitting two consecutive shots and stealing the ball and making a bucket; she finished the half with 11 points.



Alexyz Vaioletama battles for a loose ball with Cajon's Ebony James.

Photo taken by Terry Pierson of the Press-Enterprise, www.pe.com.


But Cajon's superstar guard Layshia Clarendon heated up in the second quarter and ignited a run for her team. On every posession she fought to get the ball up court, and she hit a three-point field goal while teammate Kori Walker hit two successive shots. Through fighting to get the ball up court and making a lot of shots, the Cowgirls first closed the gap and then took the lead, 32-21, at halftime. Clarendon had 16 points and Burnside, nine.

Cajon came out blazing in the third quarter, and Clarendon's quick scoring increased their lead 38-31. But a big shot by Mater Dei's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suddenly put out their fire. Behind the sophomore guard, the Monarchs went on a 16-0 run before the Cowgirls were finally able to score again with 1:57 to play in the period. Mosqueda-Lewis and Clarendon continued to trade baskets, and it was 51-44 at the end of three.

The Cowgirls got as close as five a couple times in the fourth quarter, but it was the Mosqueda-Lewis show. Watching her hit shot after shot, I forgot that she'd only scored two of her game-high 21 points in the first half. In fact, it was her baseline drive for the bucket and the foul with 37 seconds left that sealed the victory for Mater Dei, putting them ahead 64-56 - the final score.

Mosqueda-Lewis also finished with six rebounds and three steals, as did Vaioletama, who also contributed 13 points.

Clarendon had 28 points, four rebounds and three steals, while Burnside put up 13, grabbed 10 boards and had three blocks. Her status is not known, as she went down with what appeared to be a rolled ankle after a drive with 21 seconds to play. No one from Cajon showed up for post-game interviews with the media.



Vailetama blocks Burnside's shot in the second half.

Photo taken by Terry Pierson of the Press-Enterprise, www.pe.com.


Mater Dei Coach Kiernan is in his second season at Mater Dei, having come from Troy High School in Fullerton. There, he guided his team to three state and five Southern California state titles in 11 years.

He admitted to maxpreps.com that he is "trying to build something very special here," but said he is ahead of schedule.

I'll tell you one of the reasons why: defense. I've not seen a full-court press like Mater Dei's before. I don't even know what you'd call it.

First, they put two defenders on the inbounder, or whomever is in the backcourt alone with the ball. Cajon turned the ball over a couple times before they figured out they needed to put the ball in Clarendon's hands to start, because she was the only one with the acumen to get it out of the trap. Even so, it required the Cal-bound senior to bob up and down or lunge through the two defenders just to make the pass. If the ball gets past the first person, there are three other Mater Dei defenders waiting to shut down the offense. The Monarchs are a very tall team.

Another reason Mater Dei has risen to the top is that they are just loaded, and most of the best players are underclasswomen. Besides Mosqueda-Lewis and Vaioletama, they've got freshman point guard Jordan Adams and freshman guard Taylor Spears, each of whom average eight points and four assists per game. Senior Kathryn Haugen and junior Lauren Rock are also heavyweights on the team, and sophomore guard/forward Jessica Duarte is on the rise. Oliver is also a solid contributor.

Clarendon was impressive - much more so than in the Brea game two weeks ago. She only walked the ball up the court once, in the second half, and that was to slow down the feverish pace of the game. Mater Dei didn't give her that luxury the rest of the time, and Clarendon handled it well. She really had to push hard to get the ball up the court on every single possession, and she'd just put her shoulder down and pound the ball into the floor, spinning away from a defender if she had to. Clarendon also made some pretty improbable shots. Mater Dei made her work hard for every single point, and she's got a lot of endurance in that skinny little body.

But despite her undisputable skills, I decided last night that I'm not a fan of Clarendon or her team. They seem to thrive on displays, and I'm not big on drama. Even Paul Westphal, at one point in his broadcast, chuckled and said, "my but Cajon certainly has a flair for theatrics." Indeed.

Clarendon was knocked to the ground several times as she fought to get the ball up court, and with each time, she made a bigger and bigger show out of getting up and grimacing. One time she was knocked to the ground mid-court, and laid there on her stomach for almost 30 seconds, sucking wind. Late in the game, Clarendon would step back and bend over for a few seconds before putting up a free throw.

I'm not saying that playing an intense, forest fire of a team like Mater Dei is easy, and I'm quite sure Clarendon was really tired. But the Monarchs were also fighting hard, and for their undefeated lives, and all they did was sweat a lot - there were no facial or emotional displays. Plus, everytime Clarendon went down, not one of the four coaches on the bench made a move to get out of their seats to help her. Granted, the minute a coach walks on the floor the player has to be taken out, and Cajon needed her for all 32 minutes. Still, they could have put her right back in, which lead me to think they knew what was up with her.

Cajon, as a team, also had trouble getting off the floor when they were warming up at a basket. First it was at halftime of the proceeding game, when Foothill came back to their seats and needed their basket. Then it was prior to their own game, when Mater Dei players were already lining up for intros while Cajon players ignored assistant coach Krystal Gray's admonition to "come on!" for their own line up.

Before the game, Mater Dei players went to shake hands with all the refs. After the game, Mosqueda-Lewis, Vaioletama and Kiernan spoke with reporters and posed for photos. No one from Cajon came to the media room.

The referees did indeed seem biased towards Mater Dei at times, but I hope Cajon didn't let that take them out of their game. Every great coach will tell you, don't let the refs get in your head.

The one downer of the night was that Burnside apparently turned her ankle as she drove for the basket with 21 seconds to play. Her shoulders shook as she lay on her side, and this time the coaches did come out on to the floor. I hope she's allright. Her team really needs her.

Other notes

Teams or partial teams in the house to check out the matchup: Brea Olinda, Bishop Amat, Riverside.

There are cameras in the ceiling of the gym. A guy that said he worked there tried to tell me they were spotlights, but when they lit up the spotlights for game intros, they were not them. I know a camera when I see it. Why would Mater Dei have cameras in a ceiling of a gym?

Foothill's Christina Marinacci put up 27 points - 18 in the first half - in her team's game against Long Beach Wilson, prior to the premiere game. Marinacci is off to USC next year, which explains why Trojan Coach Mark Trakh was in the house.

Best triple-threat position award goes to Vaioletama. Just awesome.





Mater Dei (top photo) and Cajon warm up before the game at their respective baskets.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fun at Mater Dei



The Southern Section playoffs are moving from Long Beach State's "Pyramid" this year to Mater Dei High School. The LA Junior Nationals tourney might be played there in April. And why, you ask? Take a look at the photo above.

Gorgeous facility. Only three years old, too. All the bleachers have seat backs; there is a large color monitor on each end of the court that shows the game and score. There are two long tables on each side of the court - one for the stat keepers/clock workers, and one for the press. The stat keeper side has a video screen on the front, facing the court, that constantly scrolls ads (in the pic it has the Nike swish going at the time). The floor has been done three times, according to staff, and the facility seats 1300-1500. In other words, it's a real arena.

I had a good time tonight. After a lopsided Foothill-Long Beach Wilson game, I witnessed an intense, hard-driving matchup in Mater Dei vs. Cajon. I'll post more specifics tomorrow. But it was funny who I ended up sitting next to at the press table for the premiere game.

I came back from getting stats and this guy had set up shop one seat away from me with his laptop and a whole bunch of notes that lined his entire space. I was impressed with that, but was too busy watching warm-ups to pay him much more attention. That is, until the team intros were completed and he suddenly put on a headset with a microphone and began talking into it.

"We're here at beautiful Mater Dei High School with its amazing athletic facilities, in the Mereulo Athletic Center," he boomed. "This is Paul Westphal, and this is vootage.com."

So I'm sitting next to a basketball legend that might still live in my hometown Seattle, calling the game for the website I'd posted on my blog before I came. Just ask my kids - this kind of thing happens to me all the time.

Westphal was amazing. He'd done all his homework, so he spoke with authority about every player, provided flawless description of the goings on as they occurred, and kept stats (points only) as he spoke. I felt like a punk.

At a timeout when he took the headphones off, I asked him how long he'd been doing it and he said 20 years. I told him he was great, and that his comments were right on. He was very sweet. And at one point in the second half, I leaned over to look and see how many points he had down for the Walker kid; he was right on the money.

Mater Dei has a hell of an athletic program, as you can see by the million championship banners hanging from the ceiling. And they play crazy 70's music during game pauses, like KISS and "Kung Fu Fighting." But they're great hosts, and their organizational skills are amazing.

Way across the Los Angeles area, my favorite high school team also won their game, putting them undefeated so far in their league. WOOT!

And though Mater Dei isn't my favorite team, I can now say they're one of my favorites. This is amusing, because I didn't even expect to like them.

More after I get some Z's.

Nike Extravaganza on tap tonight

Tonight's matchups at Mater Dei High School are as follows:

3:00 p.m. St. Paul vs. Dana Hills
4:30 p.m. Santa Margarita vs. Villa Park
6:00 p.m. Foothill vs. LB Wilson
7:30 p.m. Mater Dei vs. Cajon

Webcasts are available at this link:

http://www.vootage.com/schedule/vootage

I will also provide full game reports in this space.