Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, December 23, 2015, 8:03 a.m.
I stood out in the hall while Ronny Fisher discussed the game just completed with his Presbyterian College women’s basketball team. The door was open. I could hear every word. Fisher didn’t utter so much as a phrase that could possibly have been misconstrued.
To borrow an old sports cliché, no violation of “the sanctity of the clubhouse” (or locker room) occurred. Fisher had no secrets to hide behind closed doors.
The 60-50 victory over North Carolina Central wasn’t particularly efficient or impressive. It was a victory. Victories are hard to come by for the working class of Division I. The Blue Hose had just gotten back from Boulder, Colorado, and a loss to the PAC-12’s Buffaloes. They’ve fallen to Virginia Tech (58-44), East Carolina (84-57), Vanderbilt (56-38), and the aforementioned Colorado (72-60).
A 49-47 loss to Kennesaw State is the only one Fisher would like to have back.
Both the Presbyterian women and men awakened this morning with five victories and six defeats. The men are off to Richmond today and Marquette Sunday. The women have one more game, at home against High Point on December 29, this year.
Fisher told the young women, none of whom is a senior, to enjoy Christmas but not too much. He prescribed workouts on the honor system and told them when to be back on campus to get ready for High Point. He also talked about the true meaning of Christmas and asked them to find some time for the Lord amid the gifts, sparkling lights, and Santa Claus.
NCCU hadn’t looked like a 1-9 team, but they were. They outscored the Blue Hose, 30-27, in the second half but never got closer than six points. Presbyterian had one player score in double figures, and Janie Miles only had 10. No one had a hot hand, but several’s turned cold. Still, the field goal percentage (45.1) wasn’t bad, and NCCU’s (31.9) wasn’t good. The Eagles’ slippery guard from Arlington, Texas, Kristin Askew, scored 20, but even she was just five of 13 from the field. All five were three-pointers.
Fisher walked outside and talked to me.
“We built a 20-point lead (actually 19) and played really focused,” he said, “but then we relaxed. I don’t think it was the travel (from Colorado). I think it was more that we relaxed and thought it was going to be easy.”
Easy isn’t often in the Presbyterian athletic department. They’re up to challenges, though. The Big South schedule begins with High Point. The conference is plenty tough. The good news is no more Virginia Tech, no more East Carolina, no more Vanderbilt, and no more Colorado.
“Eight minutes into the game, [NCCU] had five offensive rebounds,” Fisher said. “Then we talked about it during a timeout, and I think they had six at half.
“They’re a pretty big team. We give up a little size. We’ve got to block out. … You’ve got to come to play, and we did play hard when we built a lead, but we just relaxed … We were just half a step slow, and we thought it was going to be easy, and it wasn’t.”
Perhaps a bit of unfamiliarity was a factor.
“It’s a great learning experience,” Fisher concluded. “I told our kids, ‘I hope we get to learn again with a -point lead.’
“Let’s try it again next game.”
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And I hope your holidays are joyous.