- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
With five seconds left. Dawn dries her hands on her shorts, breathes deep and pushes up the front end of a one-and-one. The ball walks the rim. It wavers, then nestles in nylon. She swishes the second shot. At the buzzer, Pfannebecker sends up a three-pointer that caroms off the glass.
"Final four! Final four!" cry Dike's rooters.
"Maybe this suit's got another win or two in it," Murr says.
In Friday's semifinal Dike takes on the Lady Bison of Buffalo Center. Hoopla? Buffalo Center, population 1,100, brings 1,400 fans to the game. But the Lady Bison, unbeknownst to Darci, Dawn and Dike, became extinct this morning. Their title hopes ended not with a bang, but a microbe—Bison star Wanda Schisel came down with a virulent stomach flu. She will not answer the buzzer for Buffalo Center's first-ever final four appearance.
The wounded Bison are no match for Darci and Dawn. Darci is seven inches taller than any of Buffalo Center's starting guards. She hits a flat-footed set shot 10 seconds into the game, and the Bobcats never look back. Darci scores 21 without leaving her feet. Dawn chips in 14. Eimers digs loose balls off the floor like the volleyball star she is, takes them to the net and winds up with 34. Bison fans, who live a three-pointer from the Minnesota border, dry their eyes with Hooper Hankies. Dike wins 78-57. And the Bobcats, unranked and almost unnoticed all year, are one game from the state title.
There are two lights left on the map. One, about an inch from Des Moines, represents Southeast Polk, a school serving a suburban district with a population of 10,000. The other, farther away, represents Dike, the underdog. Tomorrow night one will be extinguished. The other will remain lit, in the minds of Iowa basketball fans, forever.
Super Saturday brings a frozen wind from the north, icing the flags outside the Vet. The weatherman predicts an inch of snow, but nothing like the blizzard of '31. That was the year Avoca High School's die-hard fans fought snowdrifts all day, reaching Des Moines just in time to see Avoca's girls win their first and only state crown. After the game, fans presented the team with a snow shovel decorated in Avoca's colors.
This year's talisman is Murr's suit. For the record, it was purchased at a Cedar Falls saddle shop. It is fertilizer brown, polyester, size 48.
Murr's Bobcats wear red, white and blue. They come from a town with a population one seventeenth the size of the current population of the Vet: 10,282. Their roster represents almost 2% of Dike's citizenry—which may not sound like much, but a similarly representative Chicago team would suit up 60,000 players. Dike is 2½ hours by bus across the rich soil northeast of Des Moines. On weekends, kids in Dike cruise the town's three-block main drag. They stop at the Quick Trip Mini Mart for sodas or the Barn Cafe for sundaes. Dike stat: Darci and Dawn, though next-door neighbors, live nearly a mile apart. The Bobcats are a little bit country.
Southeast Polk coach Ray Svendson wears a freshly pressed suit. His Rams live just 20 minutes from the state capitol. They play a gambling defense Svendson calls "crazy pressure." They wear black and gold. While not quite big-city, they are at least a little bit rock 'n' roll.