Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Big Win

Today was the last regular season game for my girls' basketball team, the Diamonds . We were playing against the undefeated Regina Assumpta team, who had already beaten us twice in two meetings. On the first occasion, we lost by 10 points. On the second occasion, we were down 14-0 and I got a technical foul, but we still managed to keep it close and lose by only 5 points.

As far as the season was going, there was no way that we were going to catch up to Regina, who had a record of 10-0 with two games remaining. Our record was 8-3 with one game remaining. This would have us end up in second place behind Regina in our pool, and playing against Collège Anjou in the semi-final (the team that dealt us our third defeat). The outcome of this morning's game would make no difference as to where we or Regina ended up in the season standings. Still, I thought it was an important game, because if we make it to the league finals, it will likely be against Regina.

I was again fortunate enough to have Darlington drop by to give me a hand with the coaching. The girls showed up early and no key players were missing. The mood was light, and before the game, I tried to emphasize that if we could get off to a strong start defensively, we could win the game. I also told them that we did not need to win this game in an attempt to reduce the pressure.

The first minutes of the game were great for us. We were making very few mistakes on defense and this generated a few chances on offense. We were up 8-0 after a few minutes. I think that this situation made the girls nervous, as they were unexpectedly leading the first place team. They began to make mistakes, and the other team capitalized on them. Regina's players did not miss the easy shots we gave them. Their fans were cheering them loudly and we called a time out to get things back under control. This didn't really help, as the girls had lost their confidence. In a ridiculously short time, Regina built a huge lead on us. By halftime, we were down 28-10. This means that Regina went on a 28-2 run in the first half.

We tried not to be too hard on the girls at half time and decided to use our full-court trap in the second half. This aggressive defense had worked wonders in our first game at the tournament a couple of weeks ago, but had little effect against Langevin in our second game there. At this point, we really had nothing to lose, and I just hoped that we could claw our way back to a respectable score.

The pressure defense in fact worked wonders right from the get-go. Regina's players made one mistake after the other, either losing the ball to our defenders or throwing it out of bounds. We missed many easy shots, but it's better to make a few mistakes on offense than on defense. Regina's offense virtually shut down, and our top scorer took over our own offense. She even scored two three-pointers in two attempts (not bad for a girl about 5 feet tall!). Her second three-pointer, our team's third in a couple of minutes, put us into the lead. With 40 seconds to go in the game, we were still up by two points when the ref made a very questionable double-dribble call on our point guard after a Regina defender slapped the ball out of her hands. The end of the game was a real nail-biter... we were in the bonus and our top scorer got fouled with 23 seconds left, while we still had the two-point lead. She then missed both foul shots. The second miss was an airball and Regina had the ball on the side. Our girls managed to regain possession, and our top scorer was again fouled with 13 seconds remaining. Again, she missed both foul shots! Regina made it to the basket, but missed their last shot and we held on for an improbable two-point victory. The girls were jumping up and down in excitement. I couldn't believe they pulled it off, and I was beaming with pride. The Regina team looked dejected. I know it's petty of me, but I have to admit I was happy my girls managed to put an end to Regina's perfect season. The way the game unfolded was really like a Hollywood movie. In the second half, the Diamonds outscored the other team 29-9.

It was a fantastic end to our regular season, and no matter what happens from now on, I am proud of the girls, as they showed they could really rise to the occasion and play like stars. In the next few weeks, we will have another tournament (Jeanne-Mance) and our playoffs. If only I can find a way to motivate them to play like they did for most of the game today, they can have a great post-season. Regardless of the outcome, I hope that today's stunning victory will be etched in the memory of these 12 girls for a long time to come.

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