“I’ll make you one prediction,” Auriemma said. “At some point during the game Shoni Schimmel will make a shot that you think she’s closer to our basket than she is to theirs, because she does that all the time against us. She makes shots from ridiculous places against us.”
The saga of Schimmel and her younger sister and teammate Jude was chronicled in a documentary for the Discovery Channel, “Off The Rez.” Their mother, Ceci Moses Schimmel, was a promising athlete before she became pregnant at 15. Now a high school coach, she decided to break with family tradition and take her children away from Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and move to Portland.
Ceci told her daughters she wanted them to broaden their horizons and get away from the alcoholism, drop-out rates and low expectations that plague reservation life.
“People stay there because it’s comfortable,” Shoni said. “She wanted us to get out of our comfort zone.”
The Schimmels have played out all kinds of happy endings in this tournament. Last week, after more than two decades together and growing a family of eight children, Schimmel’s parents finally wed. Ceci and Rick Schimmel, a former baseball player at Stanford who is now a business consultant, had not gotten married primarily because a wedding was too expensive and they were too busy raising children to plan one. But they made a pact that if Louisville managed to upset Baylor, they would get married as a way of celebrating. On Easter Sunday, Louisville won, and the next day Ceci and Rick tied the knot at a courthouse in Oklahoma City.
It’s been a charmed couple of weeks for all of the Cardinals, who crave one more unlikely happy ending. Conventional wisdom says they will return to earth against the intimidating muscular defense of U-Conn. Surely their streak of hot shooting can’t continue — can it? Then again, no one thought they could repeat that awing performance against top-ranked Baylor and 6-foot-8 player of the year Brittney Griner, when they hit 16 three-pointers. Yet there went junior guard Antonita Slaughter, dropping in another half-dozen threes in the semifinal.
“We got a problem Tuesday night, because Louisville really thinks they’re the best team in the country right now,” Auriemma said. “After the way they’ve played and what they’ve done these last couple weeks, they probably think there’s nobody that can beat them.”
You might expect the Cardinals to demur, to say something modest, or cautious. But that’s not the way this team does things.
Said Schimmel: “We’ve been on this run, and we’re not coming down from it.”
For more by Sally Jenkins, visit www.washingtonpost.com/jenkins.