Publish, loss, dragon, result, pest
It was a long bus ride home. It was their first loss of the season. Karen expected it, but it still stung. They kept the game close and were only down five points with a minute to go in the game when Shanika fouled out and the result was Tennessee scored six points and put the game out of reach.
They beat UNM by ten points in the consolation game, but it was little comfort to know they were that close to the top ranked women's team in the country and fell short.
Shanika was in the back brooding. She fowled out on a bad call. It was a clear charge and the ref called her for blocking. She needed consoling.
Going back and sitting next to her she said, "You played two great games, why so glum?"
Shanika spat it out, "That ref called me for blocking three times and I established my position every time. We was robbed."
"That's the dragon you'll have to slay during every game," Coach said. "No ref ever decides who wins or loses. Bad calls are a part of the game and you have to find a way to win regardless."
"What should I have done differently?"
Sighing, "It's partly my fault. We've had so little real competition I haven't focused on avoiding fouls. On that last one you had a choice, gamble on getting a charging call or fouling out of the game. What was more important?"
"You mean I should have let her score?"
"Yes, it was only two points. The ref already called you twice why risk your last foul like that? You're no good out of the game. You were hitting three pointers and so was the rest of the team. We could have traded two pointers for threes and won the game."
She hung her head, Coach hugged her. "We went toe to toe with the best of the best and held our ground. Sometimes you learn more from a loss than a victory. Hold your head high and don't be ashamed of losing."
The rest of the team was gathered around so Coach Karen decided to do some teaching.
"You all know about the Flying Queens of the 1950's. They won a hundred and thirty one straight games, seventy-six of them under coach Harley Redin. Of everything published about those teams it's what Coach Redin said on the night of their first loss after that run.
"Calling a time out shortly before the game was over and they were going to lose, he said, 'You held your heads high for four years with grace and dignity and you are to do the same after losing as you've done winning.'"
Going back to the front of the bus, Karen thought, now what do I have to do to get that pest of a ref fired?
My freshman year at Wayland was the last year the Harley Redin coached. He was a truly great man and coach.