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Colorado State 76 – Utah State 58 (Women)

March 7, 2015

It was an emotional night at Moby Arena as the Rams closed out the regular season trying to wrap up their second consecutive MWC title on Senior Night.  An important game to be followed by a celebration of the outgoing seniors and hopefully a trophy presentation.

If you want to read about all the details of the game, go read one of the local rags.  Or better yet, read the Rocky Mountain Collegian whose coverage has been extraordinary in terms of quality and depth.  Those kids over there have done a fantastic job.

I’m a sentimental schmuck.  I cry at the movies.  I’ve seen the Wizard of Oz a gazillion times and still cry when Dorothy has to return home from Oz.  

I cried at Moby several times last night.

The first was when CSU honored the Utah State seniors before the game.  That’s right.  CSU placed the names of the Utah State seniors on the video board and CSU’s seniors Gritt Ryder and AJ Newton walked to the other end of the court to present the Aggie seniors with flowers.  It was first class all the way and very much set the tone for a night where class would be on display.  Games come and go.  Acts of kindness and respect are unforgettable.

Both teams came out of the gate shooting lights out.  The Rams were attacking the rim and the Aggies were making everything form the outside against the Rams’ 2-3 zone defense.  Utah State freshman Funda Nakkasoglu was tearing it up, scoring 16 points in the first 13 minutes of the game.  AJ Newton was nearly matching her with 15 but the Rams trailed by 4.

At the under 8 media timeout, the Rams switched into their man-to-man defense and the game began to turn slowly.  At the half, the Rams had forged into the lead at 39-38.

Bu there were changes that had to be made in terms of assignments defensively.  Nakkasoglu was doing some damage off the high screen and roll and getting her team some easy looks in the paint.  The change made was to put a taller Jamie Patrick on Nakkasoglu and to switch those high screens when necessary resulting in elite defender Ellen Nystrom defending her and Patrick able to defend a post player.  The man-to-man D in the first half and started the turnaround.  The halftime adjustment turned the game on its ear.  Naggasoglu finished with 21, only 3 of which came after the break.

Offensively, the Rams attacked the paint relentlessly as the Aggies had no answer for Elie Gustavsson inside.  Giustavsson scored on a variety of post moves and off the bounce and the Rams began to pull away.  A Jamie Patrick and-1 after grabbing an offensive rebound on her own missed 3-ball, followed by a Ryder 3-ballpushed the lead to 60-49 and all of a sudden the game was in hand.

And when the game got inside two minutes, it was time to get the two seniors out of the game and let them feel the love.  But not before AJ Newton said her good-bye to the Moby floor with a series of behind the back dribbles and some shake-and-bake as she wove her way to the rim and scored a layup between three much bigger defenders.  It was the final chapter to a storybook career at CSU for Newton and Ryder. 

So much for the game.

The girls rushed center court to congratulate each other at game’s end and it was time to honor Newton and Ryder.  As a fan, I’ll always be able to look up at the rafters and see the MWC Championship banners that they hung in their two seasons in Fort Collins.  I’ll be able to look at the floor and see Gritt Ryder threading a pass to a streaking teammate for an easy layup, an AJ Newton bomb from the perimeter.  I’ll remember AJ trying to play on a leg that required surgery because her backcourt mate was on the bench with a severely injured hamstring.  I’ll remember both of them fighting through injury and adversity because that’s who they are.

But I’ll most remember the post-game celebration of the careers of two extraordinary women.  

Careers that produced a 48-14 overall record to date and 30-6 in the Mountain West. Two championships. A 29-3 record in Moby.  

Becky Hammon will always be the Queen of CSU Women’s’ Basketball.

But no one in recent years has brought more to the Moby floor than Gritt Ryder and AJ Newton.  The heart and soul of a resurgent womens’ basketball program.

And suddenly, there they were on the Moby floor standing at center court, looking up at the video board playing highlights of their careers.  They stood with their arms draped around each other as best friends.  Their love for each other is obvious both on and off the court.  Here they were supporting each other just as they had for two long, beautiful seasons. 

An indelible sight for sure. And I cried.

They’ve given me so much on these winter nights in Moby with their skill, their passion, their competitiveness.  

There’s no place like home.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. fartsmeller permalink
    March 7, 2015 2:48 pm

    Did you cry when old yeller was shot?

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