Give Bonnie-Ball a Chance

I loaded up my 11-year-old son Saturday morning and pointed the family truckster toward Lawrence. After it was announced last week that the Women's National Invitational Tournament final was going to be played in Allen Field House, the boy asked if we could go.

It'll be fun, he said. We could have lunch somewhere cool, he said.

"And we've never been to a KU women's basketball game," he said. I didn't want to tell him that that had been for a reason.

Through absolutely no fault of my own and against my wishes, I had fun.

Sentence me to an Equal Rights Amendment rally or a meeting of the National Organization of Women, but dammit, Saturday's game was a really, really good time.

Maybe it was the near-capacity Allen Field House crowd of 16,113. I'd never, ever seen a crowd like that for a Kansas women's basketball game. For that matter, I'd never, ever even dreamed of a crowd like that for a Kansas women's basketball game. I'm old enough to have attended KU football games with lower attendance than that.

Please note: that attendance figure is a Big 12 women's basketball attendance record. Last I checked, the Mecca of women's college basketball, Bramlage Mausoleum, seats just over 12,500. So suck on that, Cat fans.

Maybe it was the fact that juniors Danielle McCray and Sade Morris combined for 43 points and up-and-coming frosh Aishah Sutherland kicked in 10 of her own. By the way, they're all back next year on a team that lost starting point guard, incoming freshman and former high school all-American Angel Goodrich, to a torn ACL before the season even started.

It certainly wasn't the alley-oops off inbounds plays or the spectacular above-the-rim athleticism that suckered me in. What did it was seeing the Lady Jayhawks – and the visiting South Florida Bulls, for that matter – busting their butts for 40 minutes in one of the more exciting games and better game atmospheres I've seen in Allen Field House in quite some time. Rest assured, Saturday's contest was a lot more fun than watching the KU men pummel Florida Gulf Coast or Cal State-Disneyland by 48.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not jumping on the Title IX bandwagon; it's been bad for college sports.

And frankly, I doubt that I'm going to run out and buy my family pack of tickets for next season's Lady Jayhawks basketball action.

But what I do know is, coach Bonnie Henrickson's team finished the season 9-3 and showed signs that perhaps they – along with their coach – were starting to live up to expectations that many fans had placed on them the day Henrickson set foot on Naismith Court.

I also know Saturday's game was gutty. Basketball players made plays. Athletes showed passion and determination and character.

I also know I'm going to quit discounting Henrickson and the Lady Jayhawks out of hand like I have for five years. Mind you, I'm still not going to pay to watch bad basketball, but I don't care if said bad basketball is played by players with or without penises. That won't figure into it now.

Besides, if the last six weeks of the 2008-09 Lady Jays season are any indication, we may not see much bad basketball in the near future from either the men or the women.

Huzzahs and kudos to Coach Bonnie and her team. You deserved a great crowd Saturday, and you got it. See? Eventually, hard work does pay off.

Let's hope some of those 16,133 in attendance decide, like me, to set aside their petty problems, their sexist attitudes and their obsession with people who jump really high and make a few more trips back next season to see a vastly-improved Kansas women's team.

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