March Madness got started a little early this year. I think we’re all a little used to the spills and thrills of the NCAA Tournament, but I’ve never seen a community college women’s game where the combined score totaled 224 points in regulation.
What a treat it was to cover the final game of the NWAC East regular season and what can only be called a scoring showcase to rival all of women’s basketball.
I’ve covered a fair amount of basketball. I had a high school boys team in Cheyenne, Wyo., that put up 100 points on five occasions en route to a 23-0 season and a state championship. I’ve seen my share of NCAA men’s teams that could bury 25-footers, jam with the best of them and score at will. Even saw a little bit of Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers.
But I’ve never seen women’s basketball teams put up 114 and 110. Even the Shoni Schimmel-Brittney Griner battles in the NCAA Women’s Final Four never produced 224 combined points.
So Yakima on the final day in February turned out to be one of those special moments. Big Bend Community College sophomore Sunnie Martinez was “feelin’ it,” she said. If you want to call 11 3-pointers from all over the arc feelin’ it. Everything she put up was money.
As I walked past the guys team waiting in the wings, I threw out the fact Sunnie had 11 3s and the Runnin’ Vikes gunners Koby Huerta and DeAngelo Stowers nodded and smiled.
Sunnie scored 33 that night, but it wasn’t just about one player going off Michael Jordan for 60 or Kobe Bryant 53. It was one of those nights where everybody was feelin’ it.
All five Big Bend starters were in double figures. Miranda Johnson was 9-24 from the floor and 4-of-11 from 3-point range for 28 points for the Lady Vikings who were trying to secure their first trip to the NWAC Basketball Championships since 2002. Leah Dougherty (19), Callie Gronning (16) and Hailey Garrity, who had 11 points and 17 rebounds were right there.
But this just wasn’t a one-sided affair and the Yaks had no intentions of getting beat on Sophomore Night. Sequoia Wheeler was every bit as brilliant, matching Martinez shot for shot to finish with 31 points. She and Trista Takes Enemy (23) brought a Rez Ball element to the game with some deep 3-point shots, a little behind the back dribbling, and that don’t-back-down mindset that made Shoni Schimmel the first Native American woman drafted in the first round of the WNBA.
The scoring didn’t fade into the night as the game came to a close, both teams scored over 30 points in the final quarter to run this thing right out the door. Yakima shot 53.2 percent from the floor and Big Bend was 17-of-43 from 3-point range.
My sister helped usher in the Title IX program back in 1976 and I remember scores like 6-3 and 7-5. But this wasn’t your grandmother’s women’s basketball.
“I’d like to post it on the guys (web) page to let them know that women can play too,” Martinez said.
Women got game and it was a fun one to see on a Wednesday night in the Yakima Valley.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer at the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org