Another CYO basketball season is in the books. Thanks to a big win last week, with a guest coach on the bench, L’s team solidified itself as the solid middle of her league: they lost to each of the top three teams and beat each of the bottom three teams. Fourth place, bitches!

Last Wednesday we played St J. This was my first game handling all of the coaching responsibilities with both of the usual coaches out-of-town. Comparing scores, it appeared that we were pretty evenly matched with St J. But you never really know.

Watching warmups, though, I was more confident. They looked a lot like us: filled with more athletes than players, not a lot of size, and I guessed they could run with us.

We got out to a great start, and led 11–5 because we were getting run-outs and layups. We even hit a few free throws. But we gave all that back and trailed 13–11.

That’s how the entire game went. We would get a little lead, then give it back. We were tied at halftime and had a three point lead going into the fourth quarter.

I wasn’t doing a lot of coaching. I let L call all the offensive plays. I would tell the girls when to switch between pressing and falling back on D. I called a few time outs. I yelled at the refs a couple times. But mostly I kept my ass on the bench and handled the substitutions.

We were up six late in the fourth quarter and it really felt like we had the game in control. St J scored to cut it to four with just under a minute left and called a time out. They had been pressing us and our press-break offense was getting a little wobbly. In the timeout I told our girls to run the one variation we have on that set. I was about to send them back out when L asked if we should flip her and the girl who normally throws the ball in, because in this play the inbounder pops in, gets an immediate pass back, and is supposed to take off. She might have saved the game with that call.

She threw it in, got the return pass, and St J immediately fouled her. Normally our worst free throw shooter would have had the ball. Now our best shooter was going to the line.

L went down and hit both free throws to put us back up six (more on this in a moment). We gave up a quick basket, they fouled again, we hit one of two. The last 30 seconds were a mad dash of them chucking, getting offensive rebounds, missing free throws but getting offensive rebounds, and then us grabbing a loose ball with four seconds left. They fouled, we missed both, but still escaped with a 36–31 win.

Three wins in a row to move to 3–2! Our girls were super pumped. Well six of them were. L sat on the bench crying. She had fouled out with about 20 seconds left and came off the floor in tears. She didn’t say anything to me as she passed, so I had no idea what she was crying about.

I gave her time to calm down and as we left the gym, I asked her if she was upset that she fouled out, that she thought the last foul was a bad call, or something else.[1]

“I shouldn’t have said anything to the ref,” she said, as the the tears flowed again.

When she was at the free throw line in the last minute, just before her first shot, one of the St J girls stepped into the lane. It threw L off for a second, as she looked at the girl, then the ref, then banked in the free throw. After the shot she said something to the outside ref, who just looked at her. The underneath ref walked up and told her it was his call, he saw the violation, and he didn’t call anything because she had made the shot. She seemed annoyed but she swished the second shot.

She claimed that’s what upset her, saying something to the ref. I’ve told her many times that it’s the coach’s job to argue calls. She wasn’t really arguing, more questioning, but I couldn’t hear her tone so perhaps she was sharp when she asked about the call.

I told her it wasn’t a big deal, she just asked why there wasn’t a call, she didn’t argue or complain like sooooo many girls do. I was glad she knew that she should keep her mouth shut, but she hadn’t done anything wrong so she had no reason to get so upset about it.

I’m guessing this was just her night to be stressed by the tension of the game and that little moment made her crack.

For her, at least, that took some of the shine off of a big win.

Another good story from that game. One of our girls was scrapping for a loose ball under our basket and, as she was getting fouled, threw the ball backwards, over her head. It was a legit foul call, but somehow the ref called it a shooting foul and gave her two shots. It was, in no way, a shooting foul. If I was the St J coach I would have been pissed. She was just heaving the ball, her back was to the hoop, and it went to a teammate, not anywhere near the rim.

A St J grandma across the court, who had been loud all game, lost her damn mind.


Some of our girls started laughing. The girl at the line looked at me with a confused look.

“S, you’re right where you’re supposed to be. Knock these down,” I said in a calm but loud voice.

The grandma kept her complaining and the refs just ignored her. S hit one of two and we moved on.

Now if the grandma had said it wasn’t a shooting foul, she would have been 100% correct. But it was absolutely the right girl to be shooting if the ref was going to give her free throws.

Always fun when adults in the crowd look like asses in front of everyone.

Saturday was my second game as coach. We played St C, who are just insanely good. They had beaten the second and third place teams by 20+ each. Two years ago when we played the same group, they beat us by 30+. They are tall at every position, play together year-round, and look more like a decent high school team than a 7th/8th grade team. We knew we had no chance.

I told the girls to have some fun, they were cleared to take 3-pointers if/when they were open, and to try not to get frustrated. I also drew up a 3–2 zone before the game, saying we would likely switch to it at some point.

I don’t know if it made a difference, but St C carved up the zone, pressed us early, and jumped out to a 19–0 lead before we hit a free throw.

We actually tied them 6–6 in the second quarter, which was our highlight for the day.

My coaching goal was to hold them under 50 and to score more than 10. We lost 49–12, so it was a total success from my perspective! Thankfully one of our eighth graders hit two 3’s to get us into double figures.

St C has a girl that only has one hand. Her right arm ends at her elbow. She can use that arm to cradle the ball, but has to dribble, shoot, rebound, and guard people with only the left hand. She was the best player on the court. We saw her two years ago and were kind of shocked by her ability. And she’s gotten a lot better. She clearly has natural athletic talent – C ran against her last spring, losing to her in the 200 and beating her in the 100 – but for her to be so good at basketball is a testament to how hard she’s had to work to overcome a huge physical limitation. She will go to a large high school so I wonder how she will do playing against really good, high school competition. I hope she does great.

Since CYO tournaments are never seeded, the blind draw for our first round opponent was…St C again. Lucky us! Tuesday we practiced, with the regular coaches back, and worked on a 2–3 zone for about half the session. We had no idea if it would work but at least the girls had an idea what we were asking them to do instead of my drawing something on the whiteboard five minutes before tip.

I don’t know if it was the zone, St C not taking us seriously, or just the Hoops Gods throwing us a bone, but Wednesday our girls played well and St C could not pull away. It was only 11–3 after the first quarter and 16–7 at halftime. With 3:45 left in the game we hit a 3 to make it 31–21. St C came down and drilled a 3 to answer and we only added one free throw before the final horn, losing 39–22.

Cutting 20 points off the deficit in four days was a great accomplishment for our girls. I think it helped that the refs last night called the game very loose, where Saturday four girls from both teams ended the game with four fouls. Letting the girls scrap was to our advantage.

One of those rare seasons that ended in a loss but the players, coaches, and parents were all pleased with the outcome. After the game the 8th graders were all crying, as this was their last time playing basketball together.

L had a solid season. She didn’t score a ton. But even though she played against mostly older girls, she was completely competent with the ball. She can get it up court and set up the offense. She makes really good passes on the break. We need to work on her left hand, on learning how to take advantage of getting an angle on the defense, and on her shooting.

She now gets a week-and-a-half off, which is good. Her knee pain has stabilized but one of her ankles has been bothering her a lot for the past couple weeks. We even put her in a walking boot Monday night, just to see if it helped at all. I told her she can’t do any running until her next club practice to give her bones and joints a rest.

Her club program has been having skills sessions every two weeks, and those will continue through the winter. She is on another team that will be in a late-fall league that plays in December. That team will likely morph into another team that plays in a winter league before the club takes over her time in the spring. She’s all-in for hoops for the time being. Hopefully her body can keep up.

  1. The fifth foul looked legit to me. But two of the calls against her were crap, especially since she basically got wiped out twice when she was going to the bucket and didn’t get a call.  ↩