Schimmel Schimmel Ya! Louisville in the Elite 8 -Brandon Ecoffey
Schimmel ya, Schimmel yam, Schimmel yay:
Louisville puts Griner away
By Brandon Ecoffey
In what may be the greatest upset in the history of the Women’s NCAA tournament Shoni Shimmel a member of Umatilla nation led the Louisville Cardinals (27-8) to an 82-81 upset over the top over all seed Baylor Bears (34-2).
The win which is already being considered as one of the all-time great upsets in all of sports history featured a performance by the Louisville Cardinals that was reminiscent of a classic reservation independent tournament three point shootout. The Cardinals were led by junior point guard Shoni Schimmel. Schimmel a 5’9” guard and a member of the Umatilla Nation from Mission, Ore. She scored 22 points in the victory and hit 5 three pointers, many of which were from well beyond the NBA line.
Already well known and symbolically adopted as family by hoops fans from all over Indian country Schimmel made a statement for both Native hoops and Native people in general by leading the 5th seeded Cardinals to a victory over a Baylor team that featured the greatest center in the history of college basketball, 6’8” Brittney Griner. The Cardinals neutralized Griner with a classic rez ball technique of packing in a 2-3 zone on defense and chucking threes like layups on the offensive end. As a team Louisville shot 16-25 from beyond the arc and 27-56 from the field overall.
With 7 minutes left in the second half Louisville held a comfortable 17 point lead over the Bears who some Las Vegas bookies had pegged as a 24 point favorite. If one was to place a $100 dollar bet on Schimmel’s Cardinals you would have seen a return of $7,500. However Goliath was not going to simply walk off in to the sunset away without a fight. As the minutes ticked off the clock Baylor began to chip away at the lead after capitalizing on several turn overs they forced from Louisville.
Schimmel did her best to keep Baylor from making a late run and made the play of the night as she drove coast to coast for a layup and foul over Griner who was almost a whole foot taller . On the way to the hoop Schimmel dug in to her bag of tricks and found an Allen Iverson-esque behind the back crossover which she used at the free throw line to create space, and finished the play with an over the shoulder, off the backboard layup that this reporter had not seen since Michael Jordan himself. After the play Schimmel made a statement as she bumped chests with the giant from Baylor as if saying, “This game was perfected on the rez, I fear you not”. The play hardened the resolve of her teammates who were now ready to drag the giants into deep water and finish them off.
At the 4:21mark of the second half however Schimmel’s early foul trouble caught up to her as she committed her fifth foul. With their leader and primary ball handler headed to the bench the weight of the world and a possible trip to the Final Four rested on the shoulders of another Native baller, Shoni’s sister Jude. The sophomore point guardstruggled with the pressure brought from the bigger more experienced Baylor team but with the help of her teammates managed to find ways to penetrate the three quarter court trap that the Bears had used so effectively throughout the season. However as the game progressed Jude found her comfort zone and matured in front of millions of people as she found ways to relieve the pressure, organize her teammates, and continue to bring the fightto the Baylor Bears.
As time clicked of clock the size of the once seemingly insurmountable lead began to shrink. The 17 point lead that the Cardinals had enjoyed only minutes earlier was now nearly gone. With 35.8 seconds left the lead was lost as Baylor pulled ahead after two made free throws. The possibility of a historic and monumental upset seemed to be slipping through the fingers of Louisville as Baylor captured the late game momentum. However with 2.8 seconds left Monique Reid a sophomore forward for the Cardinals was fouled and calmly sank 2 free throws to recapture the lead for good.
The Schimmels were helped out by teammate Antonita Slaughter who had 21 points on 7 made three point shots.
No one except for Native people watching the game and die hard Cardinal fans had given Louisville a shot at knocking off the most dominant team in Women’s basketball and the most intimidating defender in the history of women’s basketball. Baylor had a 32 game win streak going in to the game and had won 74 of its 75 previous games.
Louisville will play again Tuesday on ESPN against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. With the upset the tournament is considered to be a wide open race.