By JORDAN IKEDA
Rafu Sports Editor
Over the past two weeks, my appreciation for women’s basketball has grown tenfold.
It wasn’t because of anything spectacular I saw during March madness. After all, the UConn Huskies haven’t lost a game in two years and behind Maya Moore, probably won’t lose another this season either. It also wasn’t because of the ever increasingly visible WNBA commercials featuring Candace Parker (Lady-Lebron) and last year’s MVP Diana Taurasi popping up during TNT halftime reports.
It’s mainly been because of the Japanese and Japanese American youth I’ve had the privilege to watch, beginning with Yakumo Academy and the California All-Stars two weekends ago and culminating this past weekend with the San Gabriel Valley All-Stars and the Higashi Osaka All-Stars.
Maybe it was the coordinated cheers complete with handclaps and lyrics that the Japanese squad would go into during free throws and dead balls. Or perhaps it was the cute way in which the SGV squad attempted to emulate the Japanese practice of bowing whenever entering or exiting the game.
Both of those things greatly added to the overall atmosphere and fun, but in the end, my enjoyment sprouted life from the vastly contrasting styles that each team employed.
For those who didn’t stick around after the boys had finished, all I can say is you missed out on a fun game that pitted size against speed, finesse against grit, manic energy against methodical calculation.
The SGV All-Stars held a considerable size advantage. Janessa Thropay, one of their post players, is at least 5-11, while Victoria Gutierrez is 5-8, 5-9. When they wanted to, this tallsome twosome were unstoppable inside and tossed around the Japanese squad like they were porcelain dolls.
Of course, the Osaka all-stars kept bouncing back.
While there is every reason to believe that they are perfect ladies off the court, fragile and delicate are the exact opposite of how I would describe the tenacious on court personas of the Higashi Osaka All-Stars when their sneakers took to the hardwood.
“My girls have great fighting spirits,” coach Akio Shiogaya told the Rafu Shimpo. “They just went for it with the ‘Go For Broke’ attitude. We learned a lot from the opponents, especially their mental toughness, tenaciousness.”
The Higashi Osaka All-Stars were a flurry of motion, pressuring the ball carrier and coming from all angles when the post players received the ball. It resulted in hurried and flustered play from SGV which resulted in a lot of turnovers.
It was an extreme contrast in style of play and it made for a very interesting, tightly contested game.
With the skills exhibited on Saturday and the ability to focus and grow together as a team, my interest level in the higher levels of women’s basketball will undoubtedly evolve and blossom when these young women grow up and fill the shoes of a Taurasi or a Moore.
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