Girls final basketball game | Kim Kelley Photography

Girls final basketball game

Girls Final Basketball Game

For those of you who don’t know, I hate basketball. I hate that Tom watches every game on TV. And when I ask if his favorite team is playing, because obviously, that’s why we rushed through dinner to get home in time to catch the last half right? No. It’s not his favorite. But it could be a team that if they lose, one of his favorite teams could advance by default. Or if they win, it will be good for the final four, which is 8 months away, but who cares, they need to be watched! According to Tom (he hasn’t actually verbalized this, but I’m catching on after 20 years of being with him) every basketball game must be watched (live or via DVR) because it could effect some team in the future that he really cares about. And what kind of a fan is he if he wasn’t able to discuss how a certain team made it to a certain point in their season? This goes for Pro, and College. All games are fair game. I should never assume a basketball game is not worth watching. And for the really important games, for teams he knows his friends and family will be texting him about should they win or lose, he leaves his phone at home so the viewing experience is not threatened by knowing the outcome in advance. This has made for some awkward outings when we lose Tom and I would like to text him. (You may think occasions like this are few and far between…I mean how many times can you get separated from your spouse? Well, if you have a spouse who likes to talk as much as Tom, you understand that it’s an almost weekly occurance.)

So what a total and incredible surprise to find out how much I ADORE watching my girls play basketball! We’re going on 3 years, and I am bummed every time there is a break between seasons.

I remember telling Harper to just suck it up and play a season for daddy’s sake, thinking she’d hate it as much as I’ve hated watching it on TV. But then she loved it. And then Payton started playing, and she loved it. Then Tom started coaching them. And it became a family affair, with practices on weeknights and games every Saturday. There are summer camps, and weekly skills lessons at the rec center. There are tryouts for the club leagues and drill sessions with former WNBA players.

It’s definitely won me over. Probably anything my kids enjoy doing would make me an enthusiastic cheerleader, but there is something about basketball that I can’t get enough of.

This was the semi-final game this past season. The team was a mix of girls we knew well and were lucky to draft, and a few newcomers who needed a bit more polish. But they were ALL excited about each practice and every game. Harper and Jayna definitely led the team in scoring and both defense and offense, but the others were not far behind. Payton, little but mighty, had killer defensive skills and a game face that we’ve never seen before.

This season was dominated by one single girl. “Atlanta”. Her name spread through the league like wildfire. She had 2 moms, both college hoops stars, and a few older brothers. She was on the courts since she could walk. And she has a layup to die for. She was the only person on her team who really made any shots. The rest of her team would assist in getting the ball to her. And did she ever make the shots. Sometimes the scorekeeper would stop scoring for their team, once she reached 30 points that was sort of an unspoken max for them, and then the rest of the game would just be the opposing team trying to up their score so they didn’t lose by 20.

It was a given she would make it to the finals, and Tom, the girls and I REALLY wanted to meet them there. But unfortunately we had to play them in the semi’s. So we pulled out all the stops. We put 2 of our players on defense against her. Sometimes we threw out the man to man defense altogether and put the whole team on her. They would basically bury her with their arms surrounding her so no one could even see her and force a jump ball. Whatever they could do to stop her from scoring. And it worked! The score was tied at halftime! We even had a few minutes where we were leading!

Our other secret weapon was our cheering section. Normally the bleachers are filled with parents and siblings. Occasionally a grandparent or two. But this Saturday morning, we had invited everyone we could think of to come watch and cheer on the girls. Our bleachers were filled. Standing room only on our side. We went absolutely crazy! I lost my voice before the first half was over. Denise brought her horn that Karl refused to use on his bike and she wasn’t afraid to honk that thing. Repeatedly. A few of Tom’s friends who don’t even have kids in the league cheered like they were sitting on the floor at a Bulls-Lakers game.  It gives me chills to remember it. And our girls ate it up. You could see their energy, and their drive to win, and how much they loved the cheering.

It became so loud, the other coaches complained and the head of the league told Tom to tell us to quiet down. Tom never told us. (He told us about it afterward)  And even if he had, we couldn’t have stopped ourselves. The excitement was palpable.

We had our opening to win. Atlanta FINALLY had to sit out. We had our best players in, and they were bringing up the score with no one to score against them since our defense was so good. But a few minutes in, a girl on Atlanta’s team falls and starts crying.  I feel bad for her. For 1 second. And then I see that she is getting pulled and this is their chance to put Atlanta back in. Then I don’t feel bad for her anymore, I feel furious. It felt like a set up, although I don’t think a 9-10 year old team is that devious. Still, I was pissed. And sure enough, that was enough of a shake up to cause our downfall.

Harper got fouled right at the final buzzer. So the court was cleared after the game was over and she got to take her shots. She made both of them. I was on the floor trying to get the photos of her. I will always remember the smile on her face and way she tackled me for the hugest hug she could give me. I couldn’t imagine a better ending for Harper in her final game.

We lost, ultimately. But it was a hell of a game. One I will not forget. Tom and I still talk about it. And someday I hope to have that cheering section come back. Because the only thing better than watching your kids play a sport they love, is having your friends right there with you, enjoying it as much as you are.

You had an amazing season girls! Thank you for giving your all.

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