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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, March 12, 2018

Girls' Basketball is Different, But Exciting and Empowering

Traffic was terrible coming from Philly on Friday night, as anyone who has the misfortune to commute could tell you. I doubt anyone at Olney Charter commutes to the Lehigh Valley, so they were taken by surprise and arrived late for the opening round of the state tournament at Freedom High School. To make matters worse, they were up against a very strong Easton Area High School's Girls Basketball team, which is ranked 12th among big schools (6A) statewide and was early. Olney was still given the time needed to warm up, but it probably made no difference. Easton is much bigger and faster. The Lady Rovers had no trouble dispatching Olney, 67-22.

I've watched about five girls' basketball games this year. Contrary to the popular conception, they have been competitive games But what I liked about Easton, led by Leanna Deegan, is that they seem to be really enjoying themselves out there. They're trying to win, but they're having fun, too.

Leanna Deegan by herself might be a reason to watch girls' basketball. As she draws closer to the 1,000 point mark, it amazes me that this Lafayette-bound senior plays two other sports - field hockey and volleyball. Other exciting basketball players that will be around next year. are Taliyah Medina, a Bethlehem Catholic sophomore, and Emily Vaughan, an Allentown Central Catholic freshman.

Girls' basketball is a bit slower, and that is a blessing to me. I try to keep track of assists, steals, rebounds, turnovers and missed shots. I would completely blow that task later Friday night when the Allentown Central Catholic and Greencastle boys' teams faced each other. But it was easier to do with the girls' teams.

There's another difference. The girls are a little less physical.

I've seen Dat Lambert, Chad Kratzer and Jay Vaughan get knocked into New Jersey as they try to make plays. For Keeshawn "the beast" Kelman and Kevin Kern, it's even worse. Those guys are under the boards and are constantly getting nailed with elbows and pokes.But they drive on. An eye can be dangling from Kern's socket and he'll just shove it back in and play.

But on Friday night, when an Easton player tripped over an Olney player, she began to cry. I don't think she was hurt. She was embarrassed.

The final difference is in attire. One of the Olney girls had donned a hijab. Nike has managed to find a way to make them without the safety pins or other details that might harm other players. I heard no one say a word about it, either, which is a hopeful sign of religious tolerance.

What girls' basketball does is empower these young ladies. If they excel in basketball, they can excel in math and science, too.

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