Saturday, November 28, 2015

Two Thrilling Games in Florida

By Wally Mersereau

Fort Myers is the largest city in Southwest Florida, the term the locals here use as we do Bay Area. The primary airport is known as the Southwest Florida International Airport. The population of the city is about 65,000. The fort named Myers was established on the Caloosahatchee River immediately after the Civil War as part of the national campaign to control Indian tribes, in this case the Seminoles. Fort Myers is the county seat of Lee County, located northwest of the Everglades. Thomas Edison first visited in 1885, liked it so much he established a winter home in Fort Myers and spent the last 40 winters of his life in the town. Edison’s buddy Henry Ford set up a winter home for himself next door. By the start of the 20th century Fort Myers was well known as a winter resort. Edison paid to add many palm trees along city streets, helping to establish this place as the City of Palms.

The Germain Arena, where the tournament is being held, and the Hyatt Regency resort are actually located in the city of Bonita Springs, a suburb of Fort Myers about 20 miles south. The arena is the home of the Everblades ice hockey team. Bonita Springs also is the home of Miromar Outlets, a collection of 140 outlet stores and assorted supporting retail uses in a center next to the arena. On Black Friday the center was crowded and was providing a shuttle bus to connect to overflow parking at the arena.

A resident told me yesterday that Snowbirds from the frigid north pour into this area in the months of January through April, substantially increasing the population and traffic congestion. In advance of this influx area freeways and major boulevards are more than adequate and seem to always be free-flowing. This apparently changes during the first months of the year. I didn’t ask where these seasonal visitors are housed, but I presume in various ways including hotels and resorts and, to some degree, in winter homes. There are quite a number of upscale, gated communities here, many built around golf courses. There is a lot of new residential construction of various types evident in Lee County. It seems to be a boom time in Southwest Florida.

During the tournament the weather has been perfect, with highs in the low 80s, lows in the mid-60s and no humidity. There has been a light wind each day.

Further up the west coast of Florida, roughly west of Orlando, is the large metropolitan area of Tampa-St. Petersburg, the dominant urban area on the coast.

Rita VanDerveer, Tara’s mother, is attending the tournament with Tara’s sister Beth. If you haven’t talked to Rita up close and personal, you should do so. You will be struck by the strong resemblance between Rita and Tara in appearance, in facial expressions and in voice and manner of speaking. The mother-daughter resemblance is inescapable. Rita often attends games at Maples and is happy to talk with any Stanford fan, or anyone else for that matter. She currently lives in Colorado Springs. She and Tara’s father were teachers in Chautauqua in western New York State where Tara and her siblings grew up. Tara often remarks that she considers herself to be a teacher, carrying on her family’s traditional line of work.

The last Friday game produced a win by Purdue over LSU, putting the Boilermakers into a semi-final game against Louisville on Saturday. The first semi-final game was between Stanford and Dayton. Both games turned out to be thrilling with both ending with outcomes highly desirable for Stanford fans.

Dayton brought a 30-piece pep band, male and female cheerleaders and a burly Flyer mascot wearing early aviator goggles, the only one of the eight tournament teams to do this. About 60 Dayton fans were present along with about 20 Stanford fans. Because there were few unaffiliated fans, total attendance was less than 100 at the start of the game. Attendance grew during the game as Louisville and Purdue fans arrived.

The Stanford game started poorly with a discouraging first quarter that ended with Stanford trailing Dayton 14-24. Stanford shot poorly, had too many turnovers and showed only a fair defense. It was not apparent until the end of the game, but the Stanford turnaround began in the second quarter and accelerated slowly through the rest of the game with each quarter better than the previous one.

Stanford was outscored by 10 in the first quarter and then outscored Dayton in each of the remaining quarters--by 3 in the second quarter, by 6 in the third quarter and by 9 in the fourth quarter. The cumulative effect of this superior play by the Cardinal was to gradually shrink the Flyer lead. At the half Stanford was down by 7, at the end of the third quarter it was down by 1, after briefly taking its first lead with 4 ½ minutes left in the quarter. The fourth quarter was the opposite of the first. Stanford built an 8-point lead with 7 minutes left that turned out to be the final winning margin with the final score being 74-66.

The turnaround was another excellent team effort. Lili had only four points in the first half, but racked up 15 points in the second half, a truly heroic effort. Alanna had the hot hand through out the game with six 3s contributing to her game total of 22 points. Erica had 16 points for the game. Karlie had clutch shooting at the end to put the game out of Dayton’s reach. In the second half Stanford improved its defense along with its scoring gains and was able to get some drives to the basket. After the dismal first quarter the Cardinal outplayed Dayton more and more to the final splendid win.

The final game of Day Two was Purdue vs. #22/26 Louisville. All four Stanford coaches scouted the entire game. Louisville is a dangerous, aggressive, opportunistic, disruptive team with strong teamwork. It is well-coached and does really well at the free throw line. Purdue is a more “normal” team, much to be desired as an opponent rather than Louisville.

Louisville led at the end of the first quarter 11-9, at the half 28-20, and at the end of the third quarter 42-38, setting the scene for an amazing upset by Purdue in the final minute. In the last 1:20 of the game the lead changed 7 times with Purdue somehow able to make two free throws with 21 seconds left to win the game 62-60.

And so the final game on Sunday will be between Stanford and Purdue. This is much better than having to play Louisville. Purdue has played well in this tournament, beating LSU and Louisville, but I’m convinced the Boilermakers are the opponent to be desired in the championship game of this tournament. Stanford will need to play really well tomorrow, but its task was made easier by Purdue’s great win tonight.

1 comment:

  1. What a thoroughly enjoyable and informative account of the area, atmosphere and games! Thank you, Wally. You almost enable us to feel like we're there with you.