Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On A Night Of Basketball Decision-Making, A Guy Chooses Valley-Dowling Girls And Boys Games Over Iowa State-UNI And Big Ten-ACC Challenge on TV

Call it A Night of Basketball Decision-Making.

Iowa State was playing Northern Iowa, and I wouldn't have to go very far to watch it. Just as far as my TV.

Maybe Greg McDermott of UNI [pictured on the right], my choice as the Best Young Collegiate Coach in America, would get into it again with Iowa State's Wayne Morgan [pictured above McDermott]. For me, it's fun when the coaches don't like each other.

Last year, it looked like Mac and Morgan wanted to punch each other out after the Panthers stuck it to Iowa State, 99-82, at Cedar Falls.

I wonder if Wayne thought Mac was pouring it on.

On this night of many decisions, there were a number of other TV basketball games that could be watched on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic and probably a dozen other ESPN channels.

But wait. Valley was playing Dowling in a boys/girls doubleheader six blocks away in the Valley gym--or, officially, the Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse. It was the first big night of the high school season, and the popcorn -- the large bag even -- was only $1.50.

So I forgot the Mac & Morgan Show on the Cyclone Network, forgot the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on all the ESPN channels and sure as heck forgot what Giada Delaurentis was cooking on the Food Network.

Giada would be back another day and another night. Mac & Morgan were talking as though they now like each other, and Wisconsin, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Illinois and the rest of the Big Ten and ACC teams would be back on all the ESPN channels until March or April.

So it was to the Valley gym/Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse I went, knowing not what to expect in a warm place on a cold, windy night.

The 6:15 p.m. girls game was a good one. Dowling, I guess, was supposed to win. At least that's what the sportswriters were telling me.

With my $1.50 bag of popcorn, I walked six or seven rows into the bleachers. The National Anthem -- the recorded version, no pep band on this night even for Valley-Dowling -- was about to be played.

"The flag is that way, Ron," came a voice from one row away.

It was Bobby Hansen of collegiate and professional basketball fame. Hansen [upper right] is the analyst on the University of Iowa Radio Network's basketball broadcasts. He played at Dowling and for the Hawkeyes before winding it up with the Chicago Bulls of the NBA.

Once I figured out where the flag was so I could pay proper respect to the pregame Anthem, I talked for a while with Hansen.

"Do you have a daughter or a relative in this game?" I asked.

"My daughter is No. 24," Hansen said, without mentioning whether she played for Valley or Dowling.

I assumed it was Dowling because that's where Bobby Hansen was a high school standout. Besides, there were fans seated around Hansen who were wearing Dowling jackets and sweatshirts.

It turned out Hansen's daughter, Carly, is a guard for Valley, and she's a pretty fair player. She scored 5 points as the Tigers surprised second-ranked Dowling, 48-41.

[By the way, there was an article about Carly Hansen in the West Des Moines Register this week that was horribly lacking in facts. The West Moines Register is inserted inside my Des Moines Register three times every week. That somehow sends me the strong hint that both the West Des Moines and Des Moines versions of the Register are published by the Gannett Co. The article about Carly Hansen in the West Des Moines version mentioned Carly's dad, but didn't identify him as former Iowa and NBA player Bobby Hansen, and it didn't say that Carly's dad played at Dowling, which is Valley's longtime rival. Oh, well. My friend Buck Turnbull says he doesn't read the West Des Moines Register. I can see why. And now you know that I have smart friends.]

Getting back to the Valley-Dowling girls game, Molly McClelland, the 6-foot 2-inch daughter of major league baseball umpire Tim McClelland [left], scored 10 points and grabbed [as the sportswriters say] eight rebounds for the Tigers.

Unfortunately, they played the boys game, too. For a while, I didn't think Valley would ever score. Dowling led by 26 points at the half and wound up winning, 59-33.

I watched Valley beat Dowling twice en route to the state 4-A football championship, I watched on TV when Valley won the state baseball title last summer, I read where Valley won girls track and soccer champiosnhips, and I keep hearing how Valley wins countless band awards.

How a Valley boys basketball team could look as awful as the one coached by Willie Thornton looked against Dowling is beyond me.

Thornton's Tigers won nine games last season. The way they played against Dowling, they may not win half that many [which would be 4 1/2, I guess] this season. Something tells me Thornton may be on borrowed time in the Valley basketball office.

I can't see how Valley's administration and the parents of the players are going to put up with that kind of basketball much longer.

Dowling outshot, outrebounded, outhustled and outeverythinged Valley. Certainly the Tigers were outcoached.

Thornton didn't have a clue.

For a classy school like Valley, it was total embarrassment.

Heck, I think I'd send the football team out there to play the basketball games. Maybe Gary Swenson, whose Valley football teams have won the state 4-A title three of the past four seasons, could do the coaching. Nothing else is working.

I left at halftime of the Valley-Dowling boys game. I wanted to see the end of the Iowa State-UNI game and the Illinois-North Carolina game on the tube.

Illinois beat North Carolina, 68-64. Iowa State beat UNI, 68-61.

Unfortunately, there were no fist-fights between any of the coaches.


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