Brian Hamilton: Where the big girls play |

Brian Hamilton: Where the big girls play

It’s hard to believe in all the games I’ve covered over the years that our 8-year-old daughter hadn’t tagged along to a varsity girls basketball game.

So on the day of her team’s final Grass Valley Recreation League season, she decided it was high time for her to join her dad to watch how the “big girls” do it.

And as soon as we stepped into Jack McCrory Gymnasium, her eyes were as wide as I’d ever seen them as the girls from Valley Christian and host Bear River got themselves warmed up prior to tip off.

“They do a lot of things just like us!” she shouted in amazement. “But they don’t need a coach out there to tell them what to do.

“Look! They shoot layups, just like us. Oh! They shoot layups one-handed, just like Josh!”

Josh is one of her teammates, a youngster who has been hoisting the ball up to 10-foot rims since he and our daughter were classmates at Tall Pines Nursery School. And the practice has paid off, as his skills seem to amaze his teammates – including one who seems to bat her eyelashes at the mere mention of his name.

“Which team do we want to win?”

I patiently explain to her to that, as a sports writer, I don’t allow myself to cheer for a team, but rather root for a good game to write about.

“OK, but I like this one,” she says, pointing to the Bruins, “because you know a lot of people on there.”

As the game begins, the first thing she notices is the Valley Christian pressure defense. But she doesn’t notice this because the Warriors are so successful at applying press. It’s because they’re allowed to press full court, a no-no in the games played at Scotten School on Saturday mornings.

“They can steal the ball down there on the other end and it doesn’t matter?” she shouts. “Luckies!”

Throughout the game, as the action heats up with each possession becoming more important, the decibel level of the crowd catches her attention.

Suddenly she seems to be more interested in what’s going on in the stands, rather than on the court.

“I know when Bear River makes a basket because of him,” she says pointing to a fan. “He’s all jumping up and down.”

And for the next two and a half quarters of play, I find myself constantly translating the cheers coming from the student section.

“What are they saying?” she asks.

“Bruin … power!”

“Now what are they saying?”

“Dee-fense! … Dee-fense!”

“Why do they say that? They already play better defense than us!”

Late in the third quarter, just as Bear River begins its comeback attempt, her attention returns to the action on the floor.

While watching Bruins center Lauren Juric lead Bear River back by scoring 11 of the team’s 14 points during a key stretch, our daughter is doing enough cheering for the both of us.

But just as the game gets as exciting as it has all night, our 8-year-old taps me on the shoulder and says “You know, I can’t survive without food for two hours – unless I’m sleeping.”

Thankfully, she gets back into the game, but becomes extremely disappointed when the final buzzer sounds with the Bruins on the short end of the scoreboard.

Following me out of the gymnasium, she’s afforded a rare behind-the-scenes opportunity when a parent ushers us into the locker room, where Bear River’s seniors are sharing their final moments as teammates.

Lauren Juric, the “really good girl” our daughter was so captivated with during the game, is seated on the bench sharing some tears with her fellow seniors.

“They’re all my friends, so it makes me even more emotional,” said Juric, a UC-Davis recruit. “They’re all the girls I’ve grown up with.

“Some people say I still have a career ahead, but it’s college not high school anymore. It’s different. Anyone who has played high school sports knows there’s a difference. It might not be as competitive, but all the people … all the fans … It’s just a different atmosphere and I’m sorry to leave that behind.”

After seeing such a somber scene inside the locker room, I wondered whether it would affect our daughter’s interest in the game. And I was certainly surprised by her response on the drive home.

“It’s sad,” she said, “because some of them won’t get to see each other and some of them, it’s their last game of basketball. It made me feel sad, even though I’m not them.

“But I want to still play. Because I want to enjoy it while I can.

“And … I’ll probably always play on Josh’s team!”


Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears Saturdays. Contact him via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4240.

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