FROM THE BUD BARN
The National Women’s Basketball League is starting to turn heads. Their first official All-Star game and skills competition in just its fourth year in existence was held at the Budweiser Events Center on Monday and drew a crowd of about 2,300 fans.
“It was all that we could ask for and we had some tremendous support,” said Mike Walker, director of player personnel for the NWBL.
The American all-stars defeated the National all-stars by a score of 83-75.
Springfield Stealth point guard Stacey Clinesmith was named the all-star MVP with her 15 points and three assists and her 4-5 shooting from 3-point range. After receiving her award, she was quick to point out the level of talent on the court.
“We heard we were the underdogs and we just came out, had fun and played hard,” she said. “We knew we had to step up big because we were playing some top-notch shooters and we did that today and we really had our offense together.”
The National all-stars, which were comprised of four players from the Colorado Chill, and players from the Houston Stealth and Chicago Blaze, trailed by 19 points at halftime. Although the game might have been considered lopsided, both teams still provided a high-intensity, offensive-minded style of women’s basketball.
Birmingham Power head coach Steve Stokes talked about Clinesmith’s effort saying, “She showed today that she can play with the best and she was just excellent today.”
The National all-stars had five players in double figures, including Chill forwards Katie Cronin, who added 11 points and Ruth Riley, who added 10.
Although Clinesmith had a team-high 15 points for the National team, Birmingham forward Jen Surlas overshadowed her. She added 14 points and went 4-6 from the field.
“It’s an honor and it’s great,” Surlas said about participating in the game. “I came out here with the mentality of playing hard and pushing for the next level and that’s what I focused on.”
Surlas was quick to praise the play of her teammate and MVP Clinesmith, saying “Stacey hit some big shots for us and made some big defensive plays.”
Surlas was physically drained following the game but was emotionally charged about being a part of the first NWBL all-star game.
“I think we worked excellent (as a team). Our coaches were great with us and I enjoyed every minute of it today,” she said.
The experience that brought together some of the most experienced and talented women’s basketball players was a first, but was successful enough to resonate with professional athletes that have never been to Northern Colorado or the Budweiser Events Center before.
“Overall, it’s been a big day for the NWBL,” Stokes said. “Everyone is a winner today, not just one team. Both teams are winners–especially the NWBL.”