The high school girls basketball season has started here in Indiana, and I got to cover my first game of the year last night. It was kind of a big deal because my editor handed me an official newspaper laptop and told me to keep it for the season. Which means I’ll be covering at least one game a week for the next three months. I’m moving up in the world.<!–more–>

There was definitely some rust on my basketball reporting skills.* I was covering a game in a county tournament and one of the full-time writers was covering the early game. We had to help each other quite a bit as we scrambled to remember how we track stats.

Some of you are saying, “You can write 3000 words about some freshman at KU who has never played a minute. Don’t give me this rusty crap.” But actual reporting means I have to cut the opinion, the silly jokes, the off color comments and stick to facts, quotes, and relate what really happened. And you can’t really rip 15 year old girls. My stories would be awesome if I could write them like a blog post!
Luckily, in some ways, my game was a total blowout. The “home” team was up by one midway through the first quarter. After that, they got outscored 75-12. The “visiting” team** is pretty solid, and feature a 5’3” girl that can score from anywhere on the court. Those of us in press row let out a few “Whoos!” when she hit two step-back three pointers and a couple floaters in the lane.

** I say “home” and “visitor” since it was a neutral court and both teams were really away.

My stats seemed to hold up, but I went down to double check my individual totals with the official box after the game. There was one basket I missed so I was able to identify the correct player (the winning team cleared the bench for the fourth quarter, and had five girls on the court in the closing minutes that weren’t listed on their roster). I scampered out and did two quick interviews and came back to start working on my box score and story.

Then I looked at the clock. 9:45. We have a 10:15 deadline on non-football nights. Wow.

The box score was harder than I thought it would be, and at 10:00 I was just starting my story. I hacked together a pretty crappy piece covering the basics and sent it in at 10:13. It wasn’t good work, but it’s early in the season. Plenty of room for improvement.

Then I opened the Indy Star today and saw they had a different score listed than what I had. They had it at 84-30 while I had it 82-30. I never double-checked the scoreboard in my post-game rush! Oh crap. I felt like garbage and sent my editor an e-mail noting the discrepancy and letting him know I had checked the individual numbers, which added up to 82. He said not to worry, the Star often gets the numbers wrong because parents call them in. Also, since he hadn’t received any e-mails or phone calls about the score being wrong, chances were that I had the correct score.

This afternoon, I was able to check the state high school sports association’s website, and they listed the same score I had. Whew!

Still, not the best way to start the season. I was able to find some ways to improve my stat keeping and some checks to run during the game to make sure I have things under control. Looks like I’ll get to test them out next Wednesday, when I cover the rematch of the teams I saw last night. Hopefully they’ll keep it within 50 this time.

Oh, and some of you may remember the losing team as the team I covered last year with the young, female coach who lit into them during every timeout and pretty much every person in the gym could hear it all. Tres uncomfortable! Absolutely the worst post-game interview I’ve ever had, as the coach was crying and pissed and called her players little babies.

Well, that coach has moved on to another gig, but her dad, who was also the coach before her, has taken over. He’s intense, too, but perhaps a little less demanding. Anyway, despite getting drilled, they seemed better than last year. They’re still very young but the opposing coach said they were the best team she’s seen from that school in years. And I think having a male coach makes a difference. During that game last year, parents were constantly yelling at the girls, telling them to do exactly the opposite of what the coach had said during time outs. I didn’t hear any of that last night.