Welcome to the first post in a new, recurring series in these parts. L started her high school basketball career Tuesday night, and I think that deserves a clearly identified set of entries to document her adventures.
The season opener was against the Jesuit school not too far from our house, BPHS. We have good friends who have a son who goes there and it was fun to see him working as a team manager when we walked in. He was in C’s class at St P’s, I coached him in soccer a couple times, and we are still close with his parents. He ran over and said hello and gave C a hug, while his mom showed up later and sat with us.
When we got to our seats L was trying to get my attention from across the court as they warmed up. She was saying something with exaggerated mouth movements. At first I wondered if she was telling me she forgot her water bottle, which she did for their scrimmage two weeks ago. But C caught on to what she was saying quicker, “Oh, she’s starting!” That was my expectation, but I could tell L was excited about it, so I gave her a big thumbs up.
What gets a thumbs down, though, was BPHS’ sound system not working. They lined the teams up to announce starters, paused for a few minutes, and when they couldn’t get the microphone to work scrapped introductions. So we were robbed of hearing her name called before her first high school game. I will hold this against BPHS as long as I live.
On to the game. CHS won the tip, L got the ball, and she sat up the offense. Keep in mind every day when I pick her up from practice she complains how they only work on defense and haven’t done anything on offense. I figured this was a slight exaggeration, but I’m not there. Anyway, she dribbled to the right wing, stopped, waited for a cutter who wasn’t sure what to do, and tried to perform one of the worst dribble handoffs I’ve ever seen. The girl guarding L ripped the ball away and headed up court. One play, one turnover. Not the start I was hoping for.
But L raced back and blocked that girl’s shot! She doesn’t get a lot of blocks so that was a solid recovery.
The whole game had a ragged quality like that play. Lots of tossing and hoping instead of smart passes on offense. BPHS was very physical on defense – I wish they handed out programs so I could see how many of their girls were sophomores and juniors – and any half-assed offense by CHS was blown up. The Braves led by five after the first quarter, seven at halftime, and nine at the end of the third quarter.
BPHS hit the first shot of the fourth quarter to go up 11. The key to their lead was hitting four threes to CHS’ zero. That math adds up, I double-checked.
With about four minutes left it was still a nine-point game. Then something happened, I’m not sure what, and the Irish started playing better offense and getting stops on the other end.
With just under 2:00 left we trailed by five and were inbounding under our own basket, L throwing the ball in. The first attempt got blown up, as L missed an open cutter then tried to force it to our tallest girl inside. A loose ball went off the defense and we got another chance. This time L hit our center, a sophomore from St P’s, and T hit the shot. Down three.
After forcing a five-second call on defense, we had a possession that was truly crazy. It was a wild swing of bad passes, near steals, and a couple terrible shots with offensive rebounds sprinkled in. Eventually L got the ball on the baseline with a lane to the hoop. She drove, flipped it up-and-in, and the margin was down to one with under 30 seconds left.
On the next BPHS possession we got a steal and seemed to have an open layup to take the lead. Only our girl got completely blown up by three defenders. The referee indicated that one of the girls got all ball, which she probably did, but ignored the other two who absolutely wiped our girl out.
I started laughing. I remember well from my sports writing years that refs in JV games do everything they can to get those games over shortly after 7:00 so the varsity girls can have 20 minutes of warmups and then start right at 7:30, even if that means swallowing their whistles on close plays. It was already after 7:10 and the refs knew their job was to avoid overtime.
So CHS is inbounding under our own basket again. We called a timeout and the varsity coach jumped into the huddle to draw something up. It ended up being the same play we had run the last two attempts, only with a couple girls flipped to new spots. L found her old Panther pal again, T hit the contested shot, and we were up one with :07 left. Pandemonium on our side!
After a timeout, BPHS got a relatively open look near the rim by their strongest player. She had to rush her shot, it didn’t hit any rim, and our girls ran around screaming like they had won City when the buzzer sounded.
An exciting and entertaining if not aesthetically pleasing game.
That layup was L’s only basket of the game, going 1–5 from the floor. She also had 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, that one block, and one foul. I wasn’t tracking minutes but she played around 20 minutes of the 24-minute game. She, like all of her teammates, struggled on offense. She looked nervous early and never seemed to get comfortable. But her defense was really solid. I’ll get more into that in a minute.
After she came back from the locker room and found us she said she played terrible, “I had so many turnovers!” To be fair she made some bad passes that got knocked around before we re-gained possession that didn’t count as official turnovers. But I pointed out she also had three assists and played solid defense. When we got home I told her how good her defense was and she said “That’s the best defense I’ve ever played.” Again, more on that in just a sec. She also told us how nervous she was when the game started, which is unusual for her.
The varsity game was also very entertaining. CHS got up 11 early, but BPHS steadily clawed back into it. The Irish led by one at halftime, trailed by one going into the fourth, and were down by three midway through the quarter. We went on a 10–0 run to take the lead and ended up winning by eight. Our best player, a junior shooting guard, had 24 points. When I told L that this morning she said, “You see what I have to guard every day in practice? She is so good.” I think having to try to slow J down in practice has tightened up L’s defensive game. J also, apparently, guards the hell out of L, so maybe once her nerves calm down and the team is running better team offense, that will provide some benefits in L’s game, too.
Game one in the books, both JV and varsity are 1–0. Not a great performance by L, but she played her best in the game’s biggest minutes. It wasn’t bad for her first high school game.
We have another road game on Thursday, but I will be in Florida that night so no breakdown for it. The girls have a week off before their third game, so your next update will come Thanksgiving week. I promise they won’t all be this long. Unless the games are good enough to warrant 1000-plus words, of course!