Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This time they're right

Probably the most over-used cliche in sports is when a team wins a big game or a championship and players and coaches chant, "Nobody thought we could do it." Man, I get tired of hearing that.

Oh, probably plenty of people thought you could do it, it's just that your coach planted the world-vs.-the-team seed in the players' minds, or they exaggerated some quote or some preseason ranking to get the necessary chip on the shoulder to go out and win.

But in the case of the West Texas A&M women's basketball program, this fits. When Emily Brister was lost for the season in February with a torn ACL, there was no way any objective follower could project the Lady Buffs to the national Elite Eight tournament.

A team doesn't replace Brister's 24 points a game, her defense and her presence, which forces the other team to account for her at all time, and not lose a huge amount of firepower. Besides, with Brister last year, WT fell in the first round of the South Central Region on its home court.

But more power to third-year coach Krista Gerlich and the Lady Buffs. They struggled some later in the regular season without Brister, but once the postseason hit, they've had the mettle to overcome a great player. Gerlich got her players to believe in themselves and the roles they had to play, and the team went out and executed at a very high level.

They had an easy excuse to take for getting beat, but the Lady Buffs refused to take it. Now they've won six postseason games in a row, including the South Central Regional title game on Monday, and are in the Elite Eight next week for the first time in 12 years.

And they can say, "Nobody thought we could do it," and be right about it. And that's why they deserve hearty congratulations and a sincere pat on the back. And the season's not over yet.

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