stretch the rules, make the adults scratch their heads a little," coach
Murr says. He suspects they were at the other end of a giggling 2 a.m. phone
call he received not long ago. "But they're just good kids, fun-loving
Long before the
girls were hooking up for high jinks or baskets, their families were close
friends. The Meester clan—Dawn's folks—is northeast Iowa gentry. In 1864, five
Meester brothers and one sister emigrated from Germany. They soon tamed Iowa's
rich farmland and became, in journalist Calvin Trillin's words, "the
largest and most prominent of Grundy County's founding families." Al
Meester, Dawn's dad, is the great-grandson of one of those Meester pioneers.
Fifty years ago, the story goes, you could hike the 15 miles from nearby
Parkersburg to Grundy Center, the county seat, and never leave Meester soil. Al
farms 240 acres of corn and soybeans—a tiny plot by early Meester standards.
Dawn's mom, Shirley, who played forward for Steamboat Rock in the '50s, teaches
nursing at the Hawkeye Institute of Technology in Waterloo. Dawn, who has three
older brothers, is too busy with school and sports to do much more than token
chores around the "home place," as Iowans say. She is a
fifth-generation Meester—as close to royalty as it gets in green-collar Grundy
Dennis Graves, a carpenter, built the house in which he, his wife, Beverly,
Darci and her four older siblings (three brothers, one sister) live. Dennis is
6'2", just tall enough to look Darci in the eye. He is diabetic and legally
blind, but he can still read, albeit very slowly. And he never misses a Dike
game. "I don't see everything I'd like to see," he says. "I can't
see the expressions on faces, but I can see the numbers on their backs. I can't
see the ball go in the basket, but you listen to the fans, and you know if it
went in." Says Beverly, who runs a beauty shop in the Graves's home,
"He memorizes the sports pages." During Girls' State '88, Dennis
probably takes longer than any other fan to pore over the box scores, but he
locks his famous daughter's numbers in his memory and revels in her deeds.
Darci and Dawn,
for their part, are underwhelmed by the hoopla surrounding Girls' State Week.
Schooled in hardwood knocks by their six brothers (including Doug Graves, who
grew to 6'9" and played center at Ohio University), they figure, as Dawn
says, they can "keep up with girls."
But in the
opening round it appears for a while that Dike's light will soon disappear from
the map. Humboldt forward Mindy Hendrickson scores 20 first-quarter points.
Murr runs his hands through his hair. Darci and Dawn exchange worried glances.
In the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 71, the game becomes a free throw
shooting contest. Dawn, drying her hands on her uniform pants, shoots a look to
the Bobcat bench—not to worry, Coach. In the final four minutes Dawn, Darci and
all-state volleyballer Jenn Eimers drain one charity toss after another. Murr
applauds as the trio finishes with a combined 37 of 46 from the line. Dike wins
by 13. The light representing Humboldt, two hours northwest of Des Moines, goes
dark. On the hardwood the victors' confetti mingles with the losers' tears.
are on Thursday, which dawns warm and cloudless, the sky a pane of blue that
meets a flat horizon. Fans converge on the Vet with calls of "Hi,
Moravia in one afternoon game. Moravia's Mohawkettes boast a 26-0 record and
two shoo-ins for the all-name team, Reggie Self and Richelle Pfannebecker. The
latter has fashion-model cheekbones, gold tresses and a Larry Bird touch that
converted 32 of 50 three-pointers during the regular season. Still, for every
basketball question she is asked this week, she will hear the boyfriend
question twice. "Don't have one, don't want one," Pfannebecker replies.
She keeps her eyes on the hoop.
as Girls' State handicappers now know, will bank heavily not only on the
mismatched duo of Darci and Dawn but also on the power of their coach's sweaty
suit. Murr is a Whitey Herzog look-alike whose down-home demeanor masks
strategic savvy. He is adept at adapting. In 21 years of coaching the girls'
game he has seen every strategy the old game is heir to, and beaten most of
them. A deft technician, Murr is also profoundly superstitious.
has not been cleaned since the last time we lost," he says. His voice has
the lilt of a cement truck. "As long as we keep winning, that's the way
it's going to be."
Dawn comes out
blazing against Moravia, making four quick baskets. Dike athletic director
Hubert Kopriva goes dancing down the sideline, spelling D-I-K-E with his arms
and legs. His tie flying, the 58-year-old Kopriva finishes with a moonwalk.
Dike holds the lead until the fourth quarter, when Darci gets her shot blocked.
Unaccustomed to such stuff, Darci looks shell-shocked. She and Dawn, standing
at the midcourt bus stop, can do nothing but watch as Pfannebecker drills a
three-pointer to close the gap to 49-48 Dike.