Immaculata University Magazine - Spring 2011 - page 42

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I MMA C U L ATA U N I V E R S I T Y
talent pool, fielding four or five teams, all of whom could run and were
amazingly athletic.
The gamewas played at Henderson FieldHouse at 3 p.m. on aMonday
in February. The gym seated 3,500, but there must have been 4,500 fans
there, and they were hanging from the upstairs railings. We jumped out
on them early and led by 10, 15 points most of the game. It was a physical
game, and I remember they brought Linda Ziemke, a rugged six-footer,
to slow me down. I finished with 25 points and 21 rebounds, and Rene
added 14 more. Most importantly, we went to the line 35 times and made
28 free throws. That really made the difference.
Although West Chester made a late rally, we walked out of there with
a 63-57 victory.
That was the day I got engaged to Karl. I remember telling my
teammates about it in a huddle. He and I had become more serious in
college when he was at Widener. We went to Longwood Gardens and
to the Palestra to watch Big Five college basketball games. We talked
constantly about basketball. But there was more – much more. He had a
great sense of humor. I knew that if I married him, I would always be in
a good mood. But I would never give him the satisfaction of laughing at
his jokes. I still don’t. When we became engaged, Karl didn’t have money
for a ring. I said to him, “Look, don’t buy me just any little ring. I want to
tell you right now, if you don’t have money for it, it’s okay. But don’t buy
anything little.”
Late in the regular season,wehadplayedahomegame againstUrsinus.
A few years ago, Debbie Ryan, the former head coach of Virginia who had
played for Ursinus then, was speaking at a symposium called “Lessons
from the Legends” before 1,200 coaches at the WBCA Conference. In her
remarks, she admitted that she and some of her college teammates had
sneaked up to the second floor of Immaculata’s Rotunda, hanging a bed
sheet from the banister that read: “We’re going to nail Immaculata to the
cross.” You can imagine how that played with us! We won the game—
then ripped that darn thing to shreds. I’m still wondering how they got
their hands on that sheet. And I’m still wondering how they managed to
hang it from the second-floor Rotunda!
Meanwhile, there was a bit of concern (just a bit) rearing its ugly head
in some corners of our campus. A couple of girls—yes, two, to be exact—
approached SisterMarie Antoine, the successor of SisterMary of Lourdes, to
discuss what they felt was a “very serious” matter. “Rumor had it” that our
own Immaculata was winning the reputation of becoming a “jock school.”
Sister hurriedly told them, “Oh, honey dears, don’t worry. That’s never
going to happen.” Sister Antoine immediately tracked down Sister Marian
William. “What do the girlsmean by a ‘jock school’?” she asked in aworried
voice. I don’t know what Sister Marian told her, but I’ll bet it was something
like, “Oh, honey, don’t worry. That’s never going to happen.”
In the spring of 1973, the team was looking almost like professionals.
We won the Mid Atlantic Regionals at Lock Haven, and we once again
won the Nationals, this time defeating Queens on their home court.
There was no question that teams were gunning for us. We were no
longer a cute little story. We knew that in a single-elimination, 16-team
tournament, anything could happen. And it almost did.
We played SouthernConnecticut in the semi-finals. It was our second
game of the day, and we found ourselves down 12 points, with just 3:12
to play. Thank goodness for the press. It ate away at their lead, and pretty
soon we were up by one point with 40 seconds to play. Cathy called
timeout and told us not to foul anybody.
So what happened? Southern dribbled the ball up the floor, and one
of our players fouled; we were lucky. The Southern player made only one
of the two free throws. We had the ball for the last possession, with 20
seconds left. We called timeout, but officials at the scorers’ table forgot to
turn off the 30-second shot clock. We started a play with just 10 seconds
on the clock.
But Marianne got confused. She was looking at the shot clock instead
of at the scoreboard clock. Everything was breaking down. With six
seconds left, everyone was shouting for her to shoot. She put up a jumper
and missed. But I grabbed the rebound and tapped in the shot at the
buzzer to give us a 47-45 win.
My 21st birthday was on the next day, the day of the finals. The night
before, we took over a local restaurant and about 60 people sang “Happy
Birthday” to me. “I have never lost a game on my birthday,” I said, “and I
don’t intend to start now.”
The drama surrounding that Southern game made the final against
a good Queens College team—which was filled with tough, street-smart
kids from New York—seem easy by comparison. We won, 59-52, before
a crowd of 4,000. Earlier, we had promised Cathy an undefeated season.
And we kept our pledge.
When the game ended, everyone was jumping around. But I was
sitting on the stands by myself, thinking, “I just played as hard and as
well as I could. I averaged 25 points and 18 rebounds in these four games.
And yet to win this thing a third time, I will have to play even harder. I
don’t think I can physically play any better than I did this week.” The
celebration wasn’t even ten minutes old.
From a personal standpoint, what I wanted more than anything was
to go out as a champion. When I played at O’Hara, we won the first three
years, but I didn’t go out a champion. We lost to West Catholic in my
senior year. When I took off my Immaculata uniform, I wanted it to
mean something.
At our year-end banquet, as we approached the dais for recognition
and applause at the Covered Wagon Inn, I thought to myself, “Okay, this
is it. This year, they’ll give us rings. No one has ever won two consecutive
championships. This year we’re bound to get rings.” Well, they
congratulated us, shook our hands, but no rings. Their reason? “Why
would we give you rosaries again? We gave them to you last year.”
That summer, I played internationally for the United States in the
World Championships in Russia. I thought I was tall. But when I got over
there and saw Russia’s 6’10” center, Illyana Semonova, who was ten and a
half inches taller than I, this almost six-footer felt like a smurf in the land
of giants. She wore No. 6, and I barely reached the 6 on her jersey.
Russia, as you might expect, won the gold medal. We won the silver.
When they handed out the medals, they already had our names engraved
on them. I guess they knew who was going to win the tournament.
I received something better than a medal when I arrived back home.
Karl had bought the engagement ring. And it looked good on my left
hand. Real good.
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