Friday, February 27, 2009


by Tony Rawlings

Last week I covered the women’s basketball game against Buffalo. It was pretty cool because they wore pink jerseys to help raise awareness about breast cancer.Many women's college teams have done this during the season and I was glad to see the Bobcats follow the trend. None of the women in my family has had a run in with breast cancer but as a son, nephew and grandson I realize that breast cancer is a serious concern for women everywhere. I was happy to see that this contest was more than just a basketball game, it was a tribute to cancer survivors and it addressed a serious issue.

So often in sports the stories revolve around wins, losses and statistics. I was glad to see that while this was a sporting event, the team and the baskets were not the main focus. As part of the awareness promotion, anyone who wore a pink shirt to the game got in for free. Even though I get in for free as a reporter, I decided to wear a pink shirt anyway to support the cause.

Moment of Silence
Before the game there was a moment of silence for North Carolina State women’s basketball Coach Kay Yow who died of breast cancer earlier this year at the age of 66. I thought that this was a very nice gesture. They didn’t simply honor her because she died of cancer but because she was one of the best coaches the women’s game has ever seen.

Yow helped popularize women’s college basketball and served as a mentor to some of the best women’s players and coaches. She had a great influence on University of Tennessee Head Coach Pat summit who recently won her 1,000th game as a head coach, even more remarkably she got those 1,000 wins during her 35 years as head coach at Tennessee. This is the type of legacy that Yow leaves behind. Not only being successful in her own right, but also helping others become successful through passing along her knowledge and love for the game.

Even more remarkably, Yow continued to coach while she had breast cancer. In time I believe that she will become to women’s college basketball what Jim Valvano (better known to many as Jimmy V) has become to the men’s game. Jimmy V coached North Carolina State’s men’s team back in the 70s and also died of cancer.

Game Time
After the moment of silence it was time to get busy. The ball went up and the Bobcats went to work! They played some of the best basketball I’d seen them play all season. Even with injuries to post players Thia Gholson and Chandra Myers, the Bobcats didn’t miss a beat. They used their guard play to command the game and ran a lot of motion offense and overcame the interior size of Buffalo with their speed and fast break ability.

I was very impressed with the players’ effort and guard Lauren Hmiel came up huge. She dropped a team high 20 points. It looked as if the Bobcats had this one in the bag pretty early on. They took an eight-point lead to the locker room at half –time and played like a team possessed early in the second half. They went on a 27-6 run to go up 57-36 with 15 minutes left in the and I’m lickin' my chops at this point because I know you get the best post game interviews after a big win.

The Improbable Rally
Then it happened. The Bobcats got careless and the Bulls took advantage. Turnovers and careless defense slowly dissolved the lead that the Bobcats worked so hard to build. Before you know it Buffalo went on a 11-2 run to cut the lead to single digits with less than 10 minutes remaining. So now I start to get nervous because I know Coach Randall will be fired up if they lose this game after having it in hand most of the way. Interviewing an angry coach is no fun because it's like pouring salt on an open wound. The coach is hot because the team played horribly and you as a reporter have to ask the coach why they played so badly. Since the coach is already angry about the team he or she can take that frustration out on reporters who ask questions. This does not make for good reporting because in some cases the coach gets defensive and half way answers the questions you ask.

So with all this in mind I'm thinking ‘Go Bobcats Go!!’ I know the players were thinking the same thing because as a reporter I only have to see the coach for 15 minutes after the game, but the players have to get the requisite post game chew-out and then, even worse, come back to practice the next day. Thankfully the Bobcats managed to hold off the Bulls and come away with an 80-77 win.

Post Game
The post game interview went well, though Coach Randall was disappointed about the team’s inability to keep the huge lead, she was still happy with the win. She also talked a bit about Coach Yow, who recruited her during her college days and spoke about what an inspiration she was to women and coaches everywhere. Another interesting fact I learned was that Coach Randall wore a pair of Coach Yow’s pink sneakers during the game, which I thought was one of the largest signs of respect you can pay an athlete or coach.

Final Thought
I played organized basketball from the age of four to eighteen and truly love the game. When I was younger I never took girls basketball very seriously. When my younger cousin started playing in high-school, I took more of an interest and saw that the women’s game is actually better than the men’s in a lot of ways. The women’s game is more fundamentally sound, with more of an emphasis on the below the rim game which is passing, cutting and running a half court set to get quality shots. The men’s game is more susceptible to getting caught up looking for the big play. The alley- oop dunk, the big blocked shot or the three pointer from five feet beyond the arc. After watching more women’s basketball I see that there is something very pure about it. The players never give up, never pout and play more of a team oriented game. They play the game the way it is meant to be played and for that I will always be a fan of women’s basketball.

No comments: