Ever wondered how hard is a journalist’s life? I did. So thanks to LWB here I am, official press member :) This is the Polish all-star game brought to you from inside.
Entering the hall an hour before the game, and setting up my gear, the main lights are out, but that doesn’t stop Polish NT from a shootaround. And they are still warming up after 45 minutes, so it’s probably not going to be all fun for Jacek Winnicki’s team. The stars are still in their locker room 15 minutes from the start, maybe they’re just receiving their tactics from coach Jose Hernandez?
The all-stars team are shorthanded on the starting line with Lyndra Weaver and Nicole Powell missing in action replaced by Jolene Anderson and Valeria Musina. Polish NT got the extra star bonus with Agnieszka Bibrzycka returning not only to PLKK but to NT too.
Now I have an relatively easy thing to do, just sit here, courtside, and brag about everything I see. Two meters from me here are two girls from TV, who have to deal with a “studio” 2x2m and have a camera-man and lighting technician to assist. Handling several cameras is a bit harder than this, phew. It’s just this courtside that makes me wonder if I will get a headshot like Agnieszka Majewska just did?
Probably the second biggest name today is Magda Ziętara, the only Polish player from Gdynia’s Lotos team. Cheered by the crowd and swept by the TV right away – hope this doesn’t make her too nervous, she played her right to be on that this team. The third one – Agnieszka Skobel. Still so young, but so ready to be a leader of this team, now having almost all Gorzów’s fate in her hands.
5 minus and it all begins. The lights go out and the spot-lights pick up all the players coming out on the presentation reinforced by kids from special olympics. Starting fives of course come out last cheered the most.
First possesion goes to Poland, but Ewelina Kobryn’s layup fails to fall. However it all starts very good with Biba delivering a three-ball. Nicole Powell somehow did manage to show up on the court but is gone after just three minutes. Team Poland looks like the shootaround did help – 3/4 from deep already, and Biba looks like she never left the building a year ago. Sharnee Zoll may scream for help, but no sir, another three falls for Poland after a fancy play by Geri Robert didn’t work.
Time out taken, cheerleaders showing off and a late fellow-journalist (oh, how this sounds ;)) shows up next to me, trying to get updated, which wi-fi, who were the starters and basically what’s going on. Late in the first quarter it really seems like the Poles are here to play and win. They are even playing some defence.
First quarter over, the All-stars by one. And a nice performance in the stands by kids from Gdynia’s sport schools. Nicely done!
Here we go again, for the second quarter we have the second fives for both teams. Wait, this ain’t hockey right? But threes are falling everywhere for Poland, but hey, we have a few players who can do that. Elżbieta Mowlik is after Biba’s record and delivers two by herself. Suddenly it’s Poland by 9. So Jose Hernandez bring up his 3pt guns – Laurie Koehn’s in the house. And Jolene Anderson gets her first.
Here courtside you can actually hear the game, not only watch it. You here the calls by the coach, here players talk (scream 90% of the time to hear anything) to each other. It’s still all the same story – Poland going on seriously and in the other end Jelena Maksimović tried a backwards shot, and almost made it.
Now 16 minutes into the game Magda Ziętara is on the field. She gets a look down the lane but is denied by team-mate Geri Robert. A couple of plays don’t work for Poland, so coach Winnicki calls for a time-out to let Asseco Prokom girls to show their non-basketball skills again. After the time-out the All-stars seem to start caring about the defense – it’s zone time, but Ewelina Kobryn beats the buzzer with a clear jump-shot. And that makes the half-time score at 41-34. But it doesn’t make the fun stop.
Now it’s time to see if Laurie Koehn’s watch is for something afterall. She and 5 other players (Anderson, Mowlik, Skobel, Jalcova and Musina) are going to clear it out during the 3pt shootout. Valeria Musina makes 8/18, Ela Mowlik made 7 straight points but that was everything that fell in. Jolene Anderson equals the lead with 8. Laurie Koehn destroys everyone with 12. Agnieszka Skobel manages a 9 point effort and finally Ivana Jalcova emerging from the stands without any warm-up goes to the final with 10 points. The Queen was just warming up – 13/18 in the final. Ivana Jalcova ends with another 10 points, she were too weak from station one with just one ball finding home.
At halftime only two NT players are scoreless, all have played, so it seems that coach Winnicki finds a way to utilise everyone in hand. That’s good to know, this team needs versatility, Biba won’t hold everything by her own. And the second half starts with a pair of buckets by another returnee Magda Leciejewska. She’ll certainly help the rather lonely Ewelina Kobryn up the post. It’s clear Poland’s trying diffrent ideas – Biba hasn’t attempt a shot in 5 minutes. Oh wait, she did now, and one. I know it’s a fun game, but still she’s sharp on shooting as always.
It’s not that bad in the backup players section. Weronika Idczak looks solid at the point and dished out 4 dimes already. Agnieszka Szott can create her own 1on1 game (but can’t make the damn FTs). Now Wera connects with a threeball herself and that’s too much for coach Hernandez. Trailing by 11 the stars go to Rebecca Harris with a hoop and harm. And at the end of the third it’s Poland by 8.
Two and a half minutes later it’s a tie. The stars definately turned up the defence, two shot clock violations in a row and it’s time for Poland’s starters to come back and take control. It works partially, two possesions, two made shots, but still one down with 5 minutes to go. Martyna Koc splits a pair of free throws and it’s a tie. Biba follows it with a last second circus shot and Martyna Koc adds quick a layup. That will take Jose Hernandez to rack up the team. Erin Phillips responds with 5 straigh points, but Agnieszka Skobel has other ideas – a three is in and the lead back in Poland’s hands. Well, till Geraldine Robert sinks her own long range. The lead is changing quicker than I can write – Ewelina Kobryn goes twice to the line and with 1:17 left it’s Poland by 3 and another time-out is called for the All-stars. Jolene Anderson get her 3pt attempt swatted away, Paulina Pawlak hits a FT and the final score is 74-70 for team Poland. A first ever All-star win for our National team!
So, guess who is the MVP? Yep, it’s no9, it’s Her Highness back in action – Agnieszka Bibrzycka led Poland with 16 points, the only one in double digits. The All-stars were led by Geraldine Robert who finished with game-high 19 points. It’s the long range that made the diffrence today – 8/12 for Poland and just 7/27 for All-stars. The full boxscore is here. And of course the motivation – it was 30 minutes of fun for the stars and 40 minutes of “we want it” for Poland. But I give them credit for it. Every opportunity to learn something from a good opponent is worthy. This is way better than the rather boring North-South editions.
The fun didn’t stop in the conference room, Geraldine wanted some more 3pt shot plays for her at Lotos as she made the most (a massive two in total ;)) from the stars. Coach Winicki was late as the TV swooped him first. Coach Hernandez gave his best wishes to Polish NT saying it was a tougher game as the clock run with 4th quarter being a normal match. Coach Fort added a few words about how a good promo this game was for fans all over Poland. Geraldine Robert seconded that regreting there’s no All-star game in French league – this clearly was a great idea for her to play that game. Coach Winnicki thanked everyone on his team for the effort and the opponents for making Poland play for the money in the end.
So that’s it. After 3 hours of hard work, it’s over. Thanks for reading it to the end (if you lasted). All-star game live is over, and it’s time to head home. See you next time!