The first thing we noticed about 5:30 Friday evening was we weren’t in Kansas, Toto. Nor were we in 70 degree Las Cruces sunshine. We were smack in the middle of a blowing Front Range white out. Zipping along the interstate at anything more than 35 mph was foolish, as the various vehicles flipped over alongside the highway attested. For our safety and sanity most drivers were applying sound snowstorm technique and we traversed the 40 miles from Walsenburg to Colorado City unscathed. It wasn’t the kind of driving where you noticed who was in the car next to you but we later found out Joe Behrend and Ken Sickenger were only a few yards away most of that time. When we made it to Colorado City the snow had turned to rain, and by Pueblo the roads were dry. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived at the Marriott without any additional graying of the hairs.
As I checked in my wife noticed Lauren sitting in the lobby on her laptop. Talking with Lauren I found out they had had the good sense to arrive hours earlier and avoid the worst of it. A few minutes later Coach Shoemate walked by. We had again—completely by dumb luck—picked the same hotel the team was staying at. As I walked to the elevators I ran into Joe Behrend and that’s when we compared notes on the drive and found out we had arrived within minutes of each other. Later that night I was again in the lobby and Coach Sanchez—looking tired and running late—arrived to check in. I assumed she had been caught by the weather, but no, she had come up early for some recruiting. Much as I would have liked to find out the details I knew better than to ask and be told We can’t talk about recruits so I just said “I hope it went well”, and she replied equally vaguely “I hope so.”
We slept in a while on Saturday and enjoyed the brunch while looking at a snow dusted Pikes Peak—the view from the Marriott is wonderful, and no, we weren’t paid to say so. As we sat there the team wandered in looking awake but relaxed as they headed to breakfast. As lobos are want to do they traveled in packs, generally two or four at a time: Amy and Angela, Lauren with Sara, Amanda B with Nikki, and so on. As Jordan walked by I noticed that other than being noticeably lighter she looked like she could step out on the court and play today. Hmm, wonder if she has any eligibility left….
For those who have not been to a game at Air Force and who don’t have Lobo Level seats at the Pit, the best part of going there is being able to sit right behind the bench and close enough to hear what is said in the huddles and among the team during the game. Our seats in the Pit aren’t bad, but they sure aren’t this good! Normally the AF band is playing during time-outs but they weren’t there this time (we assumed they went with the men’s team to Albuquerque) so it was even easier to hear what was being said most the time. Some comments are quite enlightening.
The game itself was—for the second game in a row—not very suspenseful. We were aggressive from the beginning and though the game was scoreless at the first media break (I don’t ever remember that happening before) we were dominating the pace of the game and getting good shots. Two missed layups and a couple other five footers, several of which were half a bounce, half a roll, or half inch from going in. I don’t know the actual numbers but I am sure we outshot the Falcons noticeably in that four minute span, and the difference in good shots was even bigger.
That first media time out was a small but I thought very telling piece about Coach Flanagan’s approach. We can all think of numerous coaches who would have ripped into their players for going four minutes without a point. Or others who would have diagrammed three or four plays to break the drought. Coach did neither. First he said something that seemed to be a joke as a number of the players laughed. Then he very slowly and calmly said to keep doing what they were doing, the shots were good shots and they would fall. One admonition to box out on the boards and that was essentially it. No added pressure to tighten already tight shooters, no panic. Just reliance on the teaching they had done in weeks of practice and getting them to relax. Mr Rogers would have been proud for those 60 seconds.
There was no immediate cure evident as four minutes later the score was an inauspicious 4-3 Air Force, but in the second time out the maintenance guys removed the plywood that was covering the Lobo basket. Our shooting percentage for 15 shots before they removed the plywood lid: 6.7% Our shooting percentage after that: 58.7%. Now if we can only keep up that shooting the rest of the season. (Another way to slice it: Amy and Amanda A: 26%, rest of team: 58 %.) We went on a 19-0 run and the game’s drama was over.
This is a very bad Air Force team, even by Air Force standards, and they showed absolutely nothing to convince anyone they were coming back from an 18 point deficit this time. They never stopped running or hustling, but they did not have enough talent on the team. One of the biggest indications was watching Coach Ardie McInelly on the Falcon bench. She usually is burning up more energy than all tem players on the court, yelling, jumping, flapping her arms and worrying most in the arena that a massive coronary is only one bad pass away. Not this time. She seemed to know you can only demand what players are physically capable of doing. Most of last year’s better players graduated, and the young players replacing them this season are in for a long, long season. They tried to play the same hard contact game Air Force usually plays, but when physical players like Alicia Steele graduate and are replaced by less forceful bodies it isn’t as effective. The point guard (Anna Gault, #4) a freshman I believe, showed some moments of promise, but this game the Lobos (largely Amanda B & Nikki) frustrated her. Another guard (#34, Brooke Cultra) also looks like she could develop but I do not know what year she is. She led the Falcons in rebounds including 5 offensive boards, looked quick at times, but her shot was not much.
Someone already posted about Amy’s poor shooting percentage, 4 for 15, and asked if she was shooting too much since no one else had more than 8 shots. I don’t know what shot distribution the team was supposed to have, but my observation was that most Amy’s shots were good, open shots. Some of them were rushed in the sense she had a moment to settle herself before shooting a few times. What I did like about her shots were few if any came after an Amy-only drive down court where no one else touched the ball. Typically they seemed to come when the ball was moved around to the opposite side and then tossed over the defense to an open Amy.
I also thought this was the best game as far as Amy looking to advance via the outlet pass rather than dribbling the ball up. Most the time it led to a faster tempo attack and often we had numbers and got a good shot. The wings leading the break also showed good judgment about when to attack and when it wasn’t quite there, back out, and set up the offence. On one notable steal & outlet the passes (I forget who it was) did show poor teammate recognition as they led Jessica down court as the same way they could have led Georonika or Sara. Jessica ran hard for it but to no avail.
Speaking of Georonika, I thought she had her second straight good game. She is looking more relaxed and made several nice offensive moves both a drive for a basket and a mid-range pull-up jumper. If she has found her consistency back the way she was playing late last season that is yet one more wing scoring weapon fighting for playing time. In a game like this few players hurt their PT chances.
An oddity in the scoring, but one that attests to the team play that was evident:
-- All 11 players saw time on the court
-- All 11 scored
-- All 11 had a rebound
-- 10 of the 11 had an assist
The prettiest assist was on a semi-break when Lauren and Sara came down the right side. Sara broke for the corner and Lauren gave a head-fake and then drove to the basket. Sara’s defender came over to double-team Lauren and Lauren flipped it behind her (not quite sure if it was completely “no look”) to a wide open Sara who hit the three. Except for offensive rebound put-backs, almost every basket had (and deserved) an assist. This team is fun to watch.
A few other observations, some of which may be my impressions more than cold objective facts. Amy’s shot was generally short again, and when the game was already determined I kept hoping she’d get a bit more rest. She “only” played 35 minutes but I would have liked Georonika to get a few more of Amy’s minutes. I doubt Amy learned much by being out there with 10 minutes to go with a 30+ lead. Nikki looked good again, looking like a freshman who is getting more confidence each time she’s out there. She still makes a few dumb reach-in mistakes, but she also glues herself to the player she is defending and looks like she will become a good defender if she cuts down on the fouls. She is also getting a better feel for when to pass the ball and when it is not a good idea. With Nikki, Amanda B, Sara, Lauren, and Georonika (in no particular order) to supplement Amy’s ballhandling we should become a very good press-breaking team--and none of those six graduate this year. As much as I am enjoying this team I suspect next year’s might be even more fun if Val and/or Jessica can fill Angela’s shoes. Speaking of the press, we actually pressed for about three defensive possessions.
Before I wrap this up I need to say something about Angela (if I don’t Dawg will probably bite me next time I see him). In my mind she is probably the most irreplaceable player we have right now. She doesn’t usually put up big numbers but she is the key to our inside defense. Almost every night she is up against faster and quicker players, and almost every night she has two big bodies on the opposing team to worry about. And other than the one game she was apparently ill, she has done a very good job defensively. Some nights she may not score a lot, but I don’t know that she has to for us to succeed. I do know that without her inside defensive presence we will be in serious trouble against several MWC teams. Maybe Coach would disagree, but I think we have more viable options to play a game without one of the other starters than we do without Angela right now.
After the game we stayed around for the post game interview, another benefit of the road games, and as we headed up the stairs we ran into the Adamson Fan Club—mom, dad, both grandparents, and a number of other relatives and friends. Stopped and talked, got a few photos, and enjoyed the conversation. On friend, an older gentleman, kept asking which player we were connected to, how we knew someone on the team, etc. We told him we weren’t relatives or family friends, just fans. He then assumed we were living in Colorado Springs and we told him, no, we drove up from Albuquerque. He believed us, but clearly found it puzzling why people who weren’t family or friends would actually do that. I wonder what his impression would have been had the storm not cut the typical Red supporters in about half.
Last edited by Lobo2x53; 01-12-2009 at 06:12 PM.
Great write up - thank you for taking the time to include so much detail.
You have motivated me to get to CS for next year's AFA game just so I can hear what coach says on the sidelines.
I agree with you about AH but I think ABeggin is equally indispensable.
Thanks again, that was a very informative account.
One At A Time . . .
Wow, nice job 2x! Thanks for that!
FWIW, the AF band wasn't in the pit either. Couldn't have been more than a dozen AF fans with blue shirts in the pit Sat. night. Their band must have had something more important to do.
Fantastic write-up, thanks for taking the time!!!
A buddy and I made the trip up to Air Force back when Fraschilla was coaching the mens team. Very nice campus, I liked the ice hockey rink just outside the basketball arena.
...take the time to pull the weeds choking flowers in your life
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