- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Murr will attack Svendson's pressure D with Darci and Dawn. And he has a couple of defenses of his own to throw at Svendson's three forwards. One is the Sue Defense, named for ball hawker Sue Riebkes, which will challenge Polk's shooters at the free throw line. "We'll go belly button to belly button in that one," Murr says. Dike's other D will sag, daring Polk to shoot from outside. "On offense, we need Darci to slow down," Murr says. "Sometimes she gets like a fire engine in there. I've told her, 'Take your time. Come get the ball, take that guard that's on you tighter than heck, and go to the bucket.' Dawn I tell to play in control. She's our Isiah Thomas. She's got to move the ball for us."
Shortly before game time, Murr turns pensive. "Win or lose," he muses, "we'll get on the bus and go home tomorrow for thank-yous, congratulations and memories shared." One memory in particular moves the Dike coach. He can joke about his sweaty suit—"You might be able to smell me tonight," he says—but Murr is deadly serious about the oversized belt buckle he wears. "Buck Hummer gave me this," he says. "Buck was a trucker. I used to drive for him almost 20 years ago. One time I put one of his rigs in a ditch, and all he did was come and help me pull it out. He was a man you could screw up with, and he'd stay with you. So that's what I try to be as a coach. Before he died, he gave me this belt buckle, and if I win the state championship I'll dedicate it to Buck Hummer."
Seven boys in gold lamé tuxedos sweep the court before the final. In the Southeast Polk locker room, one Ram player ties a yellow ribbon in her hair. In section 13 sits Fern Amsberry, 79. She played guard for Milo High in the first Girls' Union season, back in '26. "In my day we played on dirt. When it rained, we didn't play at all," she says.
On the court the Patriotism Pageant is a whirlwind tour of the globe. A gang of nine-year-old mummies, representing Egypt, sleepwalks. A lumbering Cleopatra, played by a boy from Tri-Center High, belly dances. This unorthodox queen of the Nile is chased off the court by rickshaws bearing acrobats. The acrobats are chased by can-canning femmes fatales pursued by lecherous boulevardiers who are in turn pursued by kangaroos. Under a flood of spotlights, the Australian outback becomes America—a runway for a dozen tap-dancing Uncle Sams.
"A wonderful event!" exults the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad. A fiery Statue of Liberty rains sparks on the floor and the band strikes up the Battle Hymn. "The hardest thing is the waiting," Darci says. "Then all of a sudden the buzzer rings and you get the chills."
Smoke still fills the rafters as the Rams and Bobcats square off. On Dike's first possession, Darci and Dawn meet a wall of pressure defense. Dawn finds a hole. She takes her second dribble through the lane and lays the ball in. Moments later Darci—all pipestem limbs and perm—rolls free and converts a lob pass. Svendson stalks the sideline. Murr hitches up his lucky pants.
Polk's double-post offense solves both of Murr's defensive sets in the first half. When Dike sags, Polk's Mary Smith pops a set shot. When the Bobcats play belly-to-belly, Smith finds one of her frontcourt mates. Darci chalks up 14 of Dike's first 19 points, but after the Bobcats' initial possession, "crazy pressure" limits Dawn to three free throws. With 2:40 left in the half, Polk leads by five. Then Dawn comes alive. She feeds Darci for a layup, streaks the lane for a scoop shot, hits Darci with an extrasensory assist. Dike by one. The Bobcat cheer block is a blizzard of confetti.
"Way to go, Dawn—you're having a field day out there," Murr says in the locker room at halftime. Dawn rolls her eyes. Darci pokes her.
Late in the third quarter, after allowing an average of just 57.5 points per game all year and proving that defense counts in six-on-six, Polk's pressure D wilts. Dawn's layup—assist Darci—makes it 58-53 Dike. Darci's layup—assist Dawn—makes it 60-53. In the Bobcat huddle, towering over Murr, Darci waves to her parents, sitting in the seventh row amid Dike's other crazed fans.
With three minutes left in the season. Dike leads by five. Dawn drives and puts the ball on the rack. It rolls off. Darci clears it, goes up on tiptoe and, like a grocer putting a jar on the top shelf, deposits the ball in the basket. She and Dawn embrace. At 0:15 Darci hits a six-footer for her 50th and 51st points. At 0:01, with Dike leading 86-73, she launches a jubilant three-pointer, her first of the year. A heartbeat later Darci is still .000 from long range, but she has gone 24 for 28 in the title game. A heartbeat after that, her arms are filled with Dawn. Red, white and blue balloons fall around them.