Theresa's first exposure to pressure came as a child in her Glenolden, Pa. neighborhood. "There were five boys on the block so I was the sixth player and I wasn't very tall then," she says. "We played behind my house, shooting the ball between the telephone wires and the kitchen window. When I was 13 my father put up a court. I went through an awful lot of loafers in those days because I was too embarrassed to wear sneakers."
She started in the CYO league in junior high school, playing for the first time what used to be known as girls' rules. (Boys' and girls' rules are almost the same now, which anybody can plainly see when Theresa has had a rough game. She is bruised up and down the length of her.) "I wasn't impressed with organized ball when I started," Theresa says. "Half court, limited dribbles, two rovers. I said to myself, 'I don't want to play this way.' I'd cheat like mad to make it up the court in three dribbles, walking before I started and walking after I finished." She went from there to Cardinal O'Hara High School where her team won three titles in four years. "I thought I would be through with basketball after I finished high school," she says, "but God has funny ways of working things."
Cathy Rush, it turned out, was leaving public school teaching to coach at Immaculata, other Catholic League players were enrolling there, and the school was putting up a new gym to replace the one that burned down in 1966. Until it was completed in 1971, Rush's team practiced in the novitiate across the road. "The nuns had recreation from 4 to 4:30," she remembers. "We'd come in as they were finishing up. Not being a Catholic I didn't know too much about the Sisters. I really got a kick out of seeing them roller-skating and jumping up and down on pogo sticks with their habits flying!"
The Rushes have a 5-month-old son whom the coach brings to all practices. While the team drills, little Ed sleeps in his portable crib on the bench. All the girls come from big families—Theresa, whose father is a receiver in an A&P warehouse and whose mother is a nurse, is the oldest of five children, and three of the five starters come from families with seven children—and they love to play with the baby. The Rushes also have a basketball camp in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania—two weeks for boys, two weeks for girls, with an extra week planned for the girls this summer. "They're on the court before breakfast," says Ed Rush, an NBA referee. "They play two full games and five one-on-one tournaments a day, have clinics with visiting pros and then watch NBA films at night."
Shank and several of her teammates work at the Rushes' camp. Theresa also coached a junior-high CYO team through an undefeated regular season. Last summer she worked in a Philadelphia playground, tuning up her own shots after the kids went home. The young coaches play a game called "Taps" made up of two-girl teams. One player lofts a shot from the outside. The other stands under the basket and taps it in. Shades of Crawford and Shank in the semis.
A biology major, Theresa wants to teach science after she graduates and hopefully coach, but first she plans to get married. "I announced my engagement in a huddle at the West Chester game this year," Theresa says. Her fianc�, Karl Grentz, was one of the five boys who played basketball with her through the telephone wires. He also coaches a boys' club team and he and Theresa go to Big Five games together and talk basketball constantly. He gives Theresa advice but never talks down to her. "You're constantly being compared to men," she complains. "It's a different game. At 12 or 13 you can compete together, but not after that. By then, the boys are quicker and stronger."
Shank perhaps underestimates her own strength. At the Regionals in Lock Haven, Pa. she sprained her ankle, taped it up and kept on playing. While resting her ankle before the Nationals she ran 2� miles a day to "keep my competitive edge."
After she had watched UCLA's Walton finish up Memphis State, she said, "Forty-four points and only one missed shot in a championship game. Not bad. But I wonder if they have fun playing? They don't even look excited and that's the best part of a tournament."
For the Immaculata winners this year it was, anyway. The net came down, the Mighty Macs and their boyfriends stayed over in New York and a case of Cold Duck sent by the school janitor flowed all night. At Immaculata two titles in a row and Cold Duck are plenty of excitement.