Jan 192004
 
Authors: Joshua Pilkington

Loveland – Professional basketball has made its way to Northern

Colorado, bringing with it long hair, pretty shooting strokes and

even prettier athletes.

The National Women’s Basketball League kicked off its first

season in Colorado Saturday night when the Colorado Chill (1-0)

took on the defending NWBL Champion Houston Stealth (0-1) in front

of a boisterous 3,240 announced attendance at the Budweiser Events

Center.

“I thought the atmosphere was great,” said Stealth forward Tina

Thompson, who scored 22 points in 38 minutes. “The crowd support

for a first-year franchise was very impressive.”

Aside from the Chill’s 83-72 victory being the first

professional basketball game played in Northern Colorado, another

factor contributing to the large fan turnout was the local flavor

the Chill has on its roster.

Five of the team’s 16 players played college basketball at CSU,

including the school’s all-time leading scorer Becky Hammon, who

did not play Saturday due to injuries, CSU’s second all-time

leading scorer Katie Cronin, who scored 17 points and had a

team-high 9 rebounds, and former all-conference players Teresa

Hinz, Angie Nelp and Shannon Randles.

Three other players, Shawna Hawes, a graduate of Poudre High

School; Jenny Roulier, a graduate from the University of Colorado;

and Edna Campbell, former player of the Colorado Xplosion of the

now defunct Associated Basketball League, also have ties to

Colorado.

In an intense and physical game, it was the 35-year-old

Campbell, who showed her experience down the stretch to lead the

Chill to victory.

“Edna has only been with us five to six days,” said Chill head

coach and former CSU assistant Jade Strohm. “She is a great leader

who speaks up when she needs to speak up and who knows how to

control a game. She turned it on tonight.”

Indeed she did, leading the Chill with 24 points in 29 minutes,

while shooting 9-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-6 from 3-point

range.

Though physical play characterized the game, it did not begin

that way.

Both teams jumped out of the gate shooting the ball with a

precision that would make their counterparts in the NBA jealous.

Colorado came out hitting nine of its first 13 shots, while the

Stealth was 7-for-11. That changed, however, as the defenses

intensified.

Over the final 13 minutes, 7 seconds of play in the first half,

the Chill went into a deep freeze, making four of its final 22

attempts, while Houston shot a respectable 7-for-15 over the same

stretch. The cold shooting spell turned a 26-17 Colorado lead into

a 36-33 deficit at halftime.

Contributing to the cold shooting was the pushing and shoving

that took place underneath the basket.

“You adjust to the way the game is being played,” said Houston

head coach John Chancellor said. “When you’re on the road it’s

going to get rough. They’re going to let the players play the

game.”

With both teams trading baskets during most of the second half,

Strohm decided to implement a press in an effort to force Houston

turnovers. The strategy paid off.

“We know our defense is what’s going to win us games,” said

guard Allison Curtin, whose layup off the opening tip represented

the first two points scored in the team’s franchise history. “We

wanted it more.”

While the Chill wanted ‘it’ more, the Stealth’s players just

wanted more calls on their side of the floor.

“(The officials) let a lot of things go,” said Houston guard

Tamicha Jackson, who led all scorers with 25 points on 11-of-16

shooting from the floor. “They didn’t call it on both ends. I felt

like they missed a lot of calls for us.”

Thompson, who left the game during the second half after taking

an elbow to the chest, concurred.

“The refs were letting ’em play on (the Chill’s) end of the

floor, but not on our end,” she said. “The refs have the ability to

control the game and that’s what they’re here for … not to

determine the outcome, but to protect the players.”

Regardless of the physical play, the game entertained those who

made the trip to see it and those who were a part of it.

“This is my new home,” said Stealth head coach John Chancellor.

“This is a great crowd, a great arena and a great place to play

basketball. It was exciting down to the end.”

Indeed it was.

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