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Monday, March 20, 2006

Angie Soriaga for President

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but remember way back when, when someone did something so great that somebody hoisted a sign suggesting that they live in the White House, run the country, be the face of America? Well, I saw a performance on TV last night, admittedly while killing time before tuning into what I didn't know was a re-run of Desperate Housewives, that was just memorable. Angie Soriaga, playing her last college basketball game, went out with guns ablazing.

It just goes to show you that you can find greatness in any game you watch, whether it's on an inter-city playground, at the West 4th Street Courts in NYC, in a high school playoff game, in a pick-up game in which you participate. If you relax, don't get caught up in having to watch an event, and revel in the game for the gutsy, spirited play that you should be seeking whether as a player or a fan, you can find some wonderful stuff.

The stage was the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey, a relatively cozy arena that hosted the #3-#14 game in one of the regions in the NCAA Women's Bracket. The NCAA tries to schedule the highest seeds at venues nearest their schools, which had #3 Rutgers, from nearby New Brunswick, New Jersey, hosting #14 Dartmouth, the winner of the Ivy League's two-game playoff. Going into the game, few game the Big Green of Dartmouth a chance, as I don't believe a #14 has ever beaten a #3 in the history of the 64-team NCAA women's bracket.

Rutgers, of course, has a team full of highly recruited players, some of whom were high-school all-Americans. They have a great team and a great program. Their coach, Vivian Stringer, is well-known, and its best player, Cappie Pondexter, is one of the nation's best and could be the first pick in the WBNA's draft this year. In contrast, Dartmouth plays (good) basketball in a state (New Hampshire) more known for outdoor winter sports. On paper, the game shouldn't have been much of a matchup.

In the end, Rutgers, heavily favored, won by 5, 63-58 and moved on to the second round. The Scarlet Knights just had too much for the Big Green, which played hard until the very end. What made the game compelling was the never-say-die attitude of Soriaga, a first-team all-Ivy point guard who scored 20 of her 23 points in the second half and shot 6-10 from behind the arc, including hitting four threes in the last eight and a half minutes (three of them came in the last 4:39). Watching the game, it seemed like every time Dartmouth needed a big hoop, it was Soriaga, who was named the player of the game, hitting a big shot. She was so automatic that had the game gone into a five-minute overtime, Dartmouth might have figured out a way to have beaten Rutgers. As it was, the Angie Soriaga show was quite a treat.

It could well be that Cappie Pondexter and Rutgers make it to the Final Four and contend for a national title. It was the case that last night, Angie Soriaga of the Dartmouth Big Green stole the show.

In Rutgers' back yard.

I'm sure that Angie Soriaga would have traded her player-of-the-game award for a win last night, but those of us who saw her play won't forget her determination and her outstanding display of shooting for a long time.

Even if the lowest seeds don't have too much of a chance, they play the games for a reason. Angie Soriaga reminded us, with bold strokes, last night what that reason is -- the pure joy of competing and bringing out the best, not only in yourself and your opponents, but also the game.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there, and Soriaga was un-freaking-believable. Her range seemed to start around the mid-court line, and she hit all those shots even though Rutgers had its best defender on her for a good chunk of the game. And keep in mind that Rutgers perennially has one of the best defenses in the country, and held UConn to 42 points the last time those two teams met, including two points from Ann Strother, the best 3-point shooter for the Huskies, in the entire 2nd half.

Even considering that she was doing it to my favorite team, it was one of those performances that it was an honor to witness. Of course, that's easier to say because Rutgers won.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with everything the last poster said. I was also there and nobody mentioned the buzzer beater at half-time, which means all of her points were in the last 20:02 of the game. I thought she was even better than 6-10, I think she may have been 5-6 at one point before they started heaving them up. I started the game the same as everybody else, pulling for Rutgers thinking, "they're gonna kill them, the ivy league has no basketball talent." By the end of the game I was (quietly) rooting for the upset. I kept saying to the people around me, "what an amazing thing we're watching. This girl is special." Of course, she's probably done with basketball for the rest of her life, after graduating from Dartmouth, she's probably on her way to being a neurosurgeon or some other big moneymaking job and I'm so glad I can say I was in the building the night Angie Soriaga shot the lights out at the arena down the street from my house in the last game of her life and the most special game I've ever seen one person play.

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Anonymous Miami Office Space said...

I'm sure that Angie Soriaga would have traded her player-of-the-game award for a win last night, but those of us who saw her play won't forget her determination and her outstanding display

1:02 PM  

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