Thursday, November 23, 2017
Page 725

Yesterday, today, tomorrow

So, yesterday.

ASU kicked the butts of UCLA, Oregon beat Washington, WSU beat OSU, and USC had to take it to OT to defeat Arizona. Things are normal in the Pac-10, in other words.

I got home in time to hear the online broadcast of Tennessee vs. Mississippi State. I was housecleaning and listening and cursing/yelling. Three times I stopped to hold a Vol in light because she had gone down with an injury. First it was Alex Fuller, then Kelley Cain, then Shekinna Stricklen. Even the UT announcer said the Vols were “dropping like flies.” I don’t think anyone was seriously hurt, and Tennessee preserved their all-time winning record over MSU.

So, today.

I’m going to try and figure out this California Community Colleges Athletics Association website over the weekend, because it’s still not showing the stats for the conferences. I emailed one of the officers, so I’ll try those instructions tomorrow when I’m awake.

But I went to see my girls play in their Juco game (again) tonight, and for the second time this week, they won.

The minute the buzzer sounded, I was (literally) running out to my car to catch the rest of the Carson-Washington Prep game – a rematch of last week’s semi-final game at the Fairfax Tournament. I wanted to see if last week’s game was a fluke.

It wasn’t.

Prep got out to a strong start and lead at the half, 29-16. Kejuana Gardner, aka Kiwi, and Reshanda Gray, aka Too Tall, lead their team in scoring.

The third quarter stayed pretty much the same, with both teams exchanging baskets but no runs made on either side. It was 40-29 to end it.

In the fourth quarter, Carson made a run about halfway through, on the strength of a few threes. It only took about 90 seconds for Prep to get it together, though, and take a six-point lead back up to nine. Only because of a last-second three was the final score 51-44. Prep looked good.

So, tomorrow.

Eventually, all games will be webcast at the very least. While we wait for that technology, we have audio.

Umpqua Community College games will now be audiocast on: DouglasCountySportsOnline.com. Next game is tomorrow at 4 p.m. I’m excited!

If anyone has links of other game audiocasts they’d like to share, please post.

So, blast from the past.

Prior to the 2007 City Section Finals, the LA Times did a story on the Washington Prep Lady Generals and what they meant to the school. Accompanying this piece was a really cute photo of point guard Mykiea Russell and forward Kejuana Gardner (see the Nov. 28, 2008 entry on this blog). After tonight’s game, I was inspired to look for this photo online, and I found it!

This is one of the reasons I like teaching high school – so many precious kids.

Mykia and Kejuanna

American players released from Israel team

Nicky Anosike, Tan White and Adia Barnes were released from their Israeli team Elizur Ramla this week, due to “financial troubles” of the team. Personally, I was wondering if and how the league would carry on after the break ended next week, due to the current strife in that country.

Link: http://www.safsal.co.il/earticle.aspx?id=13593

Great piece on UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell

The LA Times actually did a piece on Coach Wonder, and it’s good, too.

Among other things readers learn is that Caldwell has unflagging confidence, a condo by the Pacific Ocean and an orange Harley, and that UCLA will play Tennessee next year (I thought so).

Link: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-caldwell14-2009jan14,0,2862785.story

I like the way she’s selling the team, too. Gwan, girl.

Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits 47, Long Beach Millikan Rams 37

I went to this game last night mostly to check out Poly for the first time this season. But I also wanted to see Millikan; Poly is ranked sixth in California on maxpreps and Millikan, 25th. So I figured it would be a good game.

Not quite. But I do now have a feeling for where defending state champions Poly are, personnel and team-wise.

Poly got off to a quick start, with a bucket a piece from guard Brittany Wilson, guard/forward Kelli Thompson and forward Ta’nitra Byrd. Millikan missed their first few shots, turned the ball over and committed a couple fouls. But a long shot by guard Jaslyn Cosey ignited a small Rams run. Another shot and several free throws later, Poly was only up 9-8 at 2:56. Monique Oliver finally hit one for the Jackrabbits, but both teams committed several errors a piece before the end of the quarter; the score was 14-9 Poly.

Cosey and Oliver traded threes to start the second quarter. This was where the game got more physical, but the refs kept things under control. Poly was missing free throws, but Byrd or someone else was always there for the put-back. In fact, Byrd was amazing in the first half, making bank shots and jump shots besides the put-backs. She finished the half with 11 points.

In the meantime, Millikan players kept missing simple, under-the-basket layups. They didn’t look like a top 25 team then, nor in the third quarter. The Jackrabbits begun to run away from their opponents, and the score was 32-16 at halftime. Oliver and Thompson each had six for Poly, and Cosey had eight for Millikan.

The Rams began the second half with a shotclock violation – one of three times they did this during the game. The only thing more amazing was the non-reaction of their coach Lorene Morgan. I would have ripped my squad a new one the first time they pulled that stuff.

Nevertheless, Millikan made a small run, but the Jackrabbits responded. When a Poly player again missed both free throws with 4:02 left in the third, I realized that if this team has a weakness, this is it. They really need to work on their free shots.

Both teams really stepped up their defense at this point, and the last few minutes were a shot-blocking and turnover fest on both sides. Going into the fourth quarter, Poly was up 39-24.

Oliver finally came alive in the last period. She hit one jumper, then scored a three on her team’s next possession. She ended the game with 11 points. For the Rams, it was the Sequoia Hernandez show. A reserve freshman guard, Hernandez had scored three in the first half but roared into the last half and added 10 more points to her total.

With a couple minutes to go, Poly Coach Carl Buggs took out most of the starters and put in reserves, and the Rams made a little run. For several minutes the score had been 46-27, but Millikan players out-hustled the Jackrabbit bench and closed the gap. This showed me Poly’s key weakness, besides the free throws: they aren’t as deep as they used to be. That’s why the score ended up being 47-37.

The Jackrabbits lost April Cook, Janae Perkins, Jasmine Dixon, Nicolette Brown and Morgan Turner to graduation last year. They’ve been replaced with Byrd, a junior transfer from Hawaii, Sheila Boykin, a sophomore transfer from Lynwood, Olivia Montgomery, a freshman, and Tara Burns, a junior whose origin is yet to be determined.

Byrd is the real deal. She’s got great presence under the hoop, and wonderful floor vision. The rest of the newbies are bench players.

Millikan’s Cosey was amazing in the first half, but didn’t score one point in the second. I don’t know if this is typical for her, but I hope not. Hernandez was terrific, but I have no idea if that was atypical for her or if she should be put into the starting lineup. The entire team has potential, but they have a way to go.

Bottom line is that Poly – whose two games that they lost by mid-December equaled their losses for all of the 2007-2008 season – is vulnerable this year.

Celebrity sighting: Cal State Fullerton heir to the throne (assistant coach) Marcia Foster. I saw her at the Redondo Tourney last month and the Fairfax tourney last week. She’s everywhere.

Lady Vols in the dog house

On the heels of their loss to Vanderbilt yesterday, Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt has assigned her players the chore of laundering their own practice gear. Asked how long this detail would last, Summitt said it was “to be determined.”

Story: http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2009/jan/12/lady-vols-turn-laundry-maids/

Myself, I’m not trippin. This team is doing better than I thought they would so far this season. They’ll be cutting down nets soon enough; they’re still learning now.

Hang in there, Baby Vols.

UCLA 87, USC 75

UCLA surged late in the second half Sunday afternoon to decisively beat USC, 87-75. The win marked the first time the Bruins had defeated the Trojans in the regular season in over four years, snapping a seven-game losing streak to USC.

“I told the team, ‘this is going to be our game,’ and they bought into it,” Coach Nikki Caldwell said.

It was USC that got off to a strong start, taking a quick 10-2 lead in just over two minutes of play. Ashley Corral hit some crucial shots, as did Nadia Parker, and the Trojans seemed particularly adept at breaking UCLA’s full-court press.

Then the Bruins ralled with a 9-0 run to take their first lead, 11-10, at the 15:29 mark. USC fired back, and were still in the lead by a few at about 6:45, when UCLA made another 9-0 run to regain the lead. Bruin guard Doreena Campbell scored five of her team’s points during the last few minutes of the half, and UCLA lead 40-34 going into the locker room.

USC scored the first eight points of the second half, including buckets by Briana Gilbreath and Camille LeNoir. By the 16:24 mark, the Trojans were ahead 45-41. A few moments later, when Bruin reserve guard Alison Taka hit a three to tie the score, a basket-trading fest began. The lead changed eight times before UCLA freshman Rebekah Gardner hit a three to tie the game at 58, with under 10 minutes to play. This sparked a 14-2 Bruin run, and the team never looked back.

Campbell was amazing, with 20 point, nine rebounds and four assists. Gardner scoried a career-high 13 points. But the Beast of the Day Award went to Chinyere Ibekwe, who wrestled down 10 rebounds and put up 17 points. She was under the basket everytime it mattered yesterday, and her defense helped shut USC down.

And speaking of defense, USC’s Brynn Cameron never had a chance yesteday, as she was consistently double- and triple-teamed. She scored only three points. The Trojans that shone were LeNoir, with 20 points, and Corral, with 16.

After lapsing the last several games in rebounds, the Bruins were back up to where they were earlier in the season, grabbing 55 team boards yesterday. They only committed 14 turnovers. This appears to be what won the game for the Bruins, as they shot 37.3 for the game to the Trojans’ 43.8.

And what is indeed up with USC? I’ve been wondering that for weeks now – especially after seeing them lose to Duke a few weeks ago. The Trojans are obviously loaded with talent, especially in the shooting department. I don’t understand how a team this stacked with All-Americans could have an 8-6 record.

A USC fan who attends every game said it’s the irregular rotations and erratic substitutions that throw the players off; they can’t get into a rhythm.

Whatever the case, it’s unfortunate that those players are under-utilized.

Notes:

– Tierra Henderson played her first game since being suspended prior to the Dec. 14 game for a violation of team rules. She played 16 minutes and had one assist, two points and three rebounds. It was nice to see her back.

– Jasmine Dixon, who joined the team last week after transferring from Rutgers, took the mic prior to the game and welcomed the 5,203 fans present. She sat with the Bruins, in street clothes, on the bench.

– It was such a pleasure to see that many fans at Pauley Pavilion for the game. The student section even stood throughout the game and made noise, just like they’re supposed to.

UCLA staffers said the large number of kids at the game was due to a “UCLA Day” tour they had that day.

– Celebrity sightings: Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman. She sat courtside during the game, and at halftime came into Daniel’s and my section to say hello to people. It was nice to see her.

UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel was also there to take in the game. I’ve heard from a reputable source that he’s very friendly with and supportive of the women’s basketball team.

Next up for UCLA is Arizona State, on Thursday.

Tennessee, Rutgers lose

Big win for Vanderbilt over the Lady Vols today, whom I understand played like crap (box score shows only Alex Fuller in double figures – yikes!)

I guess Commodores Coach Melanie Balcomb decided to treat the Tennessee game as something special this time around. I understand having the practice guys wear orange head bands, but I don’t get playing “Rocky Top” and putting orange mats in front of the locker room. What was she saying there? I feel like someone told a joke thinking it was obvious, but it’s not.

Story link:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/recap?gameId=290110238

And then – holy craparoly, but Rutgers lost again today. Third consecutive loss, and the first time they’ve lost that many in a row since 1995-96.

The thing that impressed me most about the game story was that Louisville Coach Jeff Walz immediately began talking to his team after the handshake line. Not to be a party pooper, but because he really is serious about building something:

“We’re trying to get our program to the next level, where they’re talking about us like they’re talking about Connecticut, Notre Dame, Rutgers,” Walz said.

Story link:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/recap?gameId=290110097

UCLA had a big win over USC today at home, and I’ll provide a game report tomorrow.

Fairfax Tournament/LA City Showcase

I always enjoy this premiere high school girl’s basketball tournament, and this year was no exception. There was a lot of high-quality ball played, and I was delighted to see a big chunk of it. Living at the tourney was even easier this year because some friends of mine were selling their basketball-themed T-shirts there. I’d watch a game, talk with them on breaks, and go watch another game. Most of the time, Monique went with me to watch the games, leaving her partner in crime to do the sales. Sweet deal.

Title game, Jan. 10: Washington Prep 55, Fairfax, 42

It was not surprising to see these two athletic teams face off in the championship game. What was unexpected was that it took almost three minutes into the first quarter for anyone to get some points on the board – and they were they were Washington free throws, at that. A few seconds later Fairfax got a point from a free throw, and after that, it seemed like a damn broke and the real game was “on.”

The Generals went on a run. Reshanda Gray scored on a put-back, then hit on an in-bounds pass; Tayllor Gipson had a nice pull-up jumper from the left corner; Kejuanna Gardner made a sweet backboard shot; Jazmin Gray ran for a layup; Gardner assisted J. Gray on an outside shot. Washington was up 14-3 with about two minutes left in the quarter.

The Lions began to fight back in the middle of the second quarter. Point guard Priscilla Walker made a few crucial points at the end of the first, but the heroics that had saved her team earlier in the week weren’t working yesterday, as her shots weren’t falling. Nor were the free throw shots of her team, at first. But Fairfax was able to capitalize on a two suspect calls from the refs (who were horrible, by the way) to cut Washington’s lead to 18-15 at the 2:56 mark.

It was at this point that the refs demonstrated their incompetency: when Walker drove into the lane, one ref called a charge and the other, a block. Everyone had stopped, and they stared at each other. Then, just like in the WNBA, all three refs had to have a conference about it.

Walker was given her free throw shots, but Gardner then hit from the left, and then Gipson hit two from the charity stripe. Fairfax’ Jasmine Grayson hit a pull-up jumper at the end, leaving Washington with a 24-19 lead at the half. Gardner had played the entirety of both quarters.

The Lions came into the half on fire, hitting their first two shots, getting steals, and responding to every Washington basket. The athleticism of both teams was on tap. In one instance, six players from both teams were on the floor fighting for a loose ball. Later on, Gardner passed high to Cheyenne Bonam, who caught it mid-air as her body was sideways, the shape of an upside-down “L.” The Generals were up 35-30 at the end of the third.

Both teams continued to battle in the final quarter, and Fairfax stayed within 3-5 points. Candyse Farmer was amazing, stealing the ball again and again, then streaking down the court for the fast break. (Monique had nicknamed her “Steal” earlier in the week).

Gardner was ridiculous. She was doing everything – taking the ball up court (at 5’11”), snatching rebounds, getting the ball into the hoop repeatedly – and sometimes on amazing turn-around jumpers. On one play, she took it up the court, drawing two defenders. She head-faked left and then leaned right and did a one-hand push bounce pass to her teammate, who scored. Both the Lions who had been in pursuit of Gardner fell to the floor.

With about two minutes left to play, Washington broke it open by scoring, while Fairfax committed costly turnovers. They were ahead 49-42 with 57 seconds left, but with the help of a lot of (literally) last-minute free throw shots and two runaway shots at the end, the final score was 55-42.

The game was everything you’d want in a championship game: it was fast-paced, exciting and close most of the time. The crowd was great, too, because while there were fans of both teams, there wasn’t any taunting or unsportsperson-like conduct.

Named to the all-tournament team were Fairfax’ Grayson and Farmer, and Washington’s Gardner, R. Gray and Gipson; Gardner was also the tournament MVP.

“Whenever we can stay focused against the press instead of throwing the ball away, we’re doing fine,” Generals Coach Ricky Blackmon said of his squad.

Gardner had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in the game. Two days earlier, in the semi-final, she scored 21 points.

I also give props to Fairfax’ Walker, who had 21 points in her team’s victory Tuesday.

Third and fourth place: Carson and Poly (Sun Valley)

What the heck happened to Carson in the last year? They were a solid squad in 2007-2008, but this year they are contenders in every sense of the word: outside shooting, defense, athleticism, ball movement.

After Thursday’s semi-final against Washington, I asked Carson Coach W. Marcel Sanders what he’d done over the course of a year, and he just smiled and said, “hard work.” Well, sign me up.

The Generals and the Colts will be battling it out in coming weeks for the Marine League title, and the quest started Thursday. Carson built an early lead in the first quarter and kept it going the entire game. Washington was down by at least 12 most of the time, and as much as 17 at one point.

But thanks to a late fourth-quarter rally, sparked and carried by Gardner, Washington pulled out the win. This sent the Generals to the finals and the Colts to the third-place match, which they won yesterday.

Carson is extremely impressive this year. Monique and I were especially amazed by the outside shooting of Chante Miles and Daphne Rabot. And Miles is only a sophomore! Stay tuned.

Washington and Carson will play their first league game Friday night at Carson, and like the Jackson Five, I’ll be there.

Poly of Sun Valley is an up-and-coming team. Their coach (whose name isn’t on maxpreps) was cool and knowledgeable, and the girls all played their butts off every time. They easily handled Roosevelt and Garfield before losing to Fairfax on Thursday. This team has a lot of potential.

It was kind of a long haul; I saw 12 games at this tournament. But I’m going to do it again next year.

Final note: Kejuanna Gardner is a beast. A hungry, aggressive, glowering-with-determination beast.

Shock match Sparks’ offer and keep Kara Braxton

Ah, the Sparks’ quest to fill Candace Parker’s shoes isn’t going to be easy. Their first coup has failed:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Shock announced Friday they have matched the offer sheet Kara Braxton signed with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Coach Bill Laimbeer said in a release that Detroit’s philosophy “is not to allow other teams to steal our players away with money.”

Details of Braxton’s contract were not released. She is a native of Jackson, Mich.

The 24-year-old former Georgia star was selected by Detroit with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2005 WNBA draft. She has averaged of 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 131 games.

Braxton averaged 8.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33 games last season, helping the Shock win their third WNBA championship, and second in three years.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

Link:
http://sports.espn.go.com/wnba/news/story?id=3822534

Cait McMahan gives up basketball career due to injury

University of Tennessee redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan decided earlier today to cut short her collegiate basketball career due to persistent problems in her right knee. The 21-year-old guard will become a student assistant coach for the Lady Vols.

“I have to face reality and accept the fact that my knee can’t take the day-to-day pounding to play for this team,” McMahan said in a statement from the Univeristy. “I’ll try to continue to be a leader for my team from the sidelines.”

Since first tearing her ACL in November, 2005, while still in high school, McMahan has undergone numerous surgeries to repair the knee, the last of which was in September. She arrived at her decision to stop playing after consulting with her doctors, Coach Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee officials, and team Athletic Trainer Jenny Moshak.

Full release here:

http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/011009aad.html

Maria Cornelius, a scout.com reporter who covers the Lady Vols, penned a longer piece that ran on the University of Tennessee website today. Among other things, Cornelius chronicled McMahan’s difficult last few years, which included losing her mother to cancer in May of 2007.

Those of us who follow the team had a feeling this day was coming, albeit not so soon. McMahan is to be applauded for her courage in stepping away from the game she loves for the good of her health. She will make a great addition to the Lady Vol coaching staff.

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