Last week's district tournament action in Virginia proved that girls' high school basketball is a fast and exciting game to watch.
Though regular season crowds were not large, final tournament rounds averaged 500 to 600 curiosity seekers who, judging from their cheering, like the entertaining blend of basic basketball skills, careful coaching and athletic talent which they saw.
"The improvement in skills is a result of girls playing in yough leagues and going to basketball camps," says Addison Carley, coach of Robinson's girls team, which has scored more than 80 points on three separate occasions this season.
"TO be effective, girls have to know how to look up when they dribble, dribble equally well with both hands, shoot from the outside and they must be able to drive to the basket."
"Three years ago coaches just had to prepare their offenses to play against a 2-3 zone defense, because that's what everyone used. Today teams use a box-and-one, triangle-and-two, man-to-man and others. We teach the girls how to play those defenses and how to play against them."
Robinson's Ginger Rouse is a 5-foot-11 senior who average more than 26 points per game in the regular season. She consistently connects on an assortment of shots including set shots from 15-20 feet out and short jump shots. Carley also descries her as a "great passer."
Carley also notes that girls' teams "run, gun and have fun." That was the case in the Potomac District final last week between Madison and Marshall, last year's state champs.
Marshall's Betsy Bailey, regarded as one of the most skilled players in the area and probably in the state, possesses what basketball enthusiasts call "touch" - and uncanny ability to shoot the ball softly, effortlessly and accurately.
Against Madison, Bailey paced Marshall to a 61-47 victory with 30 points. The 5-foot-9 senior scored many of her points on a classic jump shot - jumping straight up, back arch+d slightly, ball held overhead, wrist flicking the ball toward the hoop at the peak of her jump, the net hardly moving as the ball passed through.
On one play, when Bailey received an inbound pass and turned to bring ball up-court, a Madison defender was just on step away from her. Without breaking stride, Bailey dribbled once behind her back, left her opponent flatfooted and continued up-court.
While Bailey and Rouse possess those extra talents that make players special, there are plenty of others around with exceptional fundamental basketball skills.
After watching Bailey rebound a Madison shot, fire a pass downcourt to Betsy Luxford who drove to the basket before casually flipping an over-the-shoulder pass to Sis Springs, who then scored on a layup, one male spectator shook his head and said, "Man, they are playing the game!"
And they are playing it well. CAPTION:
Picture 1, These were some of the action scenes at last week's girls district basketball tournament in Virginia. Laurie Jones of Marshall shoots.; Picture 2, Betsy Luxford of Marshall tries to pass as Kelly Flanagan of Madison guards her.; Picture 3, Betsy Bailey of Marshall, gua.; Picture 4, a crowd forms under a basket for a rebound. Photos by Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post