Although L’s basketball team is in week one of their three-week stoppage of play for fall breaks, there were still hoops to be played last weekend.

St P’s normally hosts a Cadet (7th/8th grade) A team tournament over fall break. We had some logistical issues and weren’t able to host this year, but a neighboring parish took it over so that four teams could still get together and play a few games.

Friday night L’s team played St L, the school that beat her team twice last year, including a tournament loss on a late basket. St L’s has a seventh grader who is already six feet tall. But the funny thing about CYO sports is how much teams change from year-to-year as girls progress through the age brackets. Apparently that girl’s sixth grade schoolmates she played with last year are way better than her eighth grade ones on this year’s team, because we destroyed them.

We won 46–17 and it was never close. Our girls played insane defense and got a series of breakaway layups early that helped us jump out to a quick 10-point lead. After that pretty much everything we threw up went in. We were hitting contested layups, short jumpers, and even got multiple offensive rebounds per possession despite the big girl. L was proud of yanking the ball away three times. “She’s not that strong, Dad,” was her comment after the game.

Well, one area was not working: we still could not hit free throws. We hit two. We missed 10, 12, 16. Somewhere in there.

L only scored two, but she played really well. She took care of the ball and got the offense running. She played solid D. She looked completely comfortable. That’s the difference between playing against really good 8th grade guards and 7th graders that she’s better than.

Her only bucket was pretty sweet, though. She had her girl on the right elbow and was working to set her up to drive. She faked right, then left, then right again. The third fake got the defender leaning and L went behind her back and got into the lane. The giant was waiting inside so L gave her a hard fake to the right, spun back to the left, then flipped the ball up to the backboard with her left hand where the giant couldn’t get a finger on it. L was pretty pleased with herself, grinning as she ran back up court.

Saturday we played the tournament hosts, St C. L played with a few of their girls last winter and did some summer training with them. We knew they had lost by 20 earlier in the day to the team, St S, that beat us by nine in our season opener.

I think that knowledge made our girls a little too confident. We played from behind all day. We were down three at half, but started the third quarter on a 6–0 run to go up three. But we gave it all back and were down four going into the fourth quarter. This time we dropped an 8–0 run to reverse the margin. Again, we got sloppy and gave it all back. We trailed by two with under a minute left and St C had the ball. They missed a shot, we got a run-out and our girl laid it in to tie. On the defensive end we forced a loose ball, grabbed it and raced up court. Our girl took it to the hoop, missed, but a teammate was there to toss it up and in with seven seconds left. We forced another turnover and won 31–29. Once again we were awful from the line. We win by 10+ if we could even shoot 50% from the line. Despite the 10% free throw shooting, the girls earned a trip to Dairy Queen for their win.

L had four points in this game. She again played pretty well.

Unfortunately we had to face St C again in the knockout round. This game was very different. They jumped all over us early. Their best player fouled out late on Saturday and she was doing all she could to hide on defense much of the day to avoid cheap fouls.

Our girls seemed like a mess the entire game. They were complaining about the referees, complaining about how the St C’s girls were grabbing them to our coaches, running the wrong plays on offense, and generally checking out mentally. Our head coach should have gotten a T. We heard there was arguing between parents from both schools across from us. Just a general good time.

St C’s was working us over pretty good. But, again, free throws were the real killer. We shot 4–20ish from the line for the game. We just kept missing and missing despite getting to the line often. Meanwhile St C shot probably 60% or so from the line.

Midway through the fourth we were down 13 and the game looked over. I’m not sure what the trigger was, but our girls started chipping away. A bucket here, a steal there, a big defensive rebound on a third possession. With about a minute left it was still a seven-point deficit. We were in the one-and-one and I suggested to the St C scorekeeper that they should just foul us because we wouldn’t make the freebies and they could keep us from getting any shots off.

There was a scramble, L grabbed a loose ball, and took off up court. She had a teammate in the middle with a defender between them and a defender back. L waited until the last possible moment and fired a pass over the middle defender’s shoulder. Her teammate caught it and laid it up and in in one motion.

Down five. I might have smacked the scorer’s table after the pass.

Next possession, L got a steal and went coast-to-coast to cut it to three with about 20 seconds left.

We forced a St C miss, got the rebound, and had the ball knocked away on an entry pass. We we inbounding under the basket with seven seconds left. Our tallest girl is a decent rebounder and can play some D, but she would much rather hoist shots from outside than battle inside on offense. Shots she never hits. But on the inbounds play she popped out behind the three-point arc in the corner, got the ball, and had a wide-open look. Her shot looked absolutely perfect. It was on line, spun around, then rimmed out. First time we’ve hit the rim all year on a three, and it damn-near went in.

St C hit a free throw to win by four.

Free throws and attitude killed us. I was happy after the game when one of our coaches came over to say that L told her teammates to stop complaining and start playing hard during one timeout. It’s a shame they didn’t get their heads into the game until the last 90 seconds or so.

Also a shame we can’t hit a freaking free throw.

L had six for this game. She was a perfect 0–0 from the line for the weekend.

It wasn’t terrible that they lost. They would have played St S in the championship game, and I’m not sure we could have hung within nine after already playing three games in three days.

Plus L was going to tryouts for a winter league team that night. Her knees were already giving her fits. I’m not sure she could have made it through the tryouts if she had played a second game in the afternoon. She said she didn’t play great at tryouts, but the coach making the teams watched her play Friday and Saturday so he has an idea of her game.

The big bummer is that he was hoping to have A and B teams at each age group with the A teams have extra skills training during the season. L said only seven or eight seventh graders showed up, so it’s doubtful they will split teams. Several of those girls aren’t strong players, so it’s doubtful they will turn them into an A team. L was hoping to get that extended skills training. Maybe the coach will combine 7th and 8th graders to get A and B teams. He is also trying to put together another tournament to play over the next two weeks, so L’s team may get back on the court again before league play resumes at the end of the month.