The Wildcat women's basketball team is showing something down the stretch that some were not expecting. Not only are they proving to be one of the most talented teams in the country, but Sunday's win over USC showed that this team has heart, and heart can carry you far in March!
Let's go back to the crumbling confines of the L.A. Sports Arena, where peanuts from past Clippers games still litter the hallways. Now this is the home of USC basketball, a proud place where a crowd of 1,000 brightens the mood about as much as a Valentine's Day card from Saddam Hussein. It was late in the first half when Arizona's star freshman, Shawntinice Polk, crumbled to the floor with a severe ankle injury, and at half time the Wildcats' 16-point lead was had been cut to just 5.
To the second half we go… The walking wounded were playing hard. Sophomore guard Dee-Dee Wheeler was stopping between dribbles to rub her injured wrists. Senior forward Krista Warren was bandaged on her shooting hand, and Aimee Grzyb was playing with all sorts of bumps and bruises. Things were not going well for this young M.A.S.H. unit. USC's Ebony Hoffman was lighting it up, and Arizona had fallen behind by 11 points at the halfway mark of the second period.
Then, it happened. Somewhere, out of the dim shadows of the ancient arena came Polkey. She was running to the bench, and a large gathering of fans from her hometown of Hanford California, began to hoop and holler. Polkey was back. Spirits lifted, and the game turned around.
After Polkey stepped onto the floor, Arizona out-scored USC by 25 points. It wasn't just about Polkey. Even with two bad wrists, Dee-Dee Wheeler made inhuman shots and was spectacular down the stretch. Senior Julie Brase was terrific, scoring 20 points and stealing the ball at crunch time, which took any air that was left out of the Trojans' balloon.
The Cats had done it! They had come back, on the road, with injuries, and beaten a red-hot USC team. This was cause for celebration! In the locker room after the game, the team celebrated not with champagne, but with ice and electrical therapy. But it didn't matter because Arizona had won, and in fine fashion.
Heart is difficult to define. But now, if anyone asks you to describe heart, tell him or her about the Wildcats at USC on February 16, 2003. That was heart!
See you on the radio!
Upcoming women's basketball broadcasts on KJLL radio 1330 AM:
Saturday, Feb. 22 = Arizona State, 12:30 p.m. for Wildcat Warm-up
Monday, Feb. 24 = The Joan Bonvicini Coach's Show, 6-7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 27 = Stanford, 6:30 p.m. for Wildcat Warm-up
Saturday, Mar. 1 = California, 12:30 p.m. for Wildcat Warm-up
Monday, Mar. 3 = Final Joan Bonvicini Coach's Show, 6-7 p.m.
Mar. 7-10, Pac-10 Tournament = All Arizona games live from San Jose
Mar. 14-April 6, NCAA Tournament = All Arizona games live from the NCAA Tournament host sites