When I heard I would be covering the UConn women’s basketball team during the post season I was excited at the prospect of them making it to the Final Four.
For selfish reasons I was looking forward to hooking up with my brother Jeff who has lived in Denver for 22 years and I haven’t been able to visit him as often as I would like. We would get together every other year to do a little skiing but I haven’t strapped my boards to my feet in a couple years now. I also have former colleagues from the Hartford Courant living in Boulder and Golden and really wanted to see them as well.
Kia Stokes is serenaded by her teammates for her 19th birthday Saturday afternoon after the UConn women finished their practice, tradition calls for the birthday girl to skip around the court afterward.
There are always photos you wish you had at an event like this. One photo I wish I had been in a position to take was a meeting between UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and Tennessee head coach Pat Summit. I was on one end of the court when I saw a commotion at the other side, I wasn’t sure what it was but a small group of reporters and photographers had gathered off the baseline. By the time I realized what was going on and made my way there it was over and I missed the two coaches greeting and hugging one another. The once bitter rivals and titans of the women’s game have recently begun to mend their relationship after it was announced Summit is dealing with the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
I used to beat myself up over missing a shot like that but today I realize you can’t be everywhere all the time. Be grateful for the ones you are able to capture and hope the next time you’re in the right place at the right time. I was able to follow her around for a few moments as she stopped to sign autographs for fans.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey, and assitant coaches Shea Ralph and Marisa Moseley know they have a tough task at hand as they face Big East rival Notre Dame for the 8th time in 15 months.
Freshmen Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of UConn drives through Brittany Mallory of Notre Dame during the first half of the 2012 Women’s Final Four. at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, Sunday afternoon. KML played with assertiveness and scored 6 points in 13 minutes in the first half.
Stefanie Dolson of UConn is double teamed by Devereaux Peters (L) and Natalie Achonwa (R) of Notre Dame in the first half but Dolson scored 12 points to help the Huskies take a 36-33 lead at the half.
When Stefanie Dolson picked up her fourth foul at the 17:19 mark of the second half UConn had to put sit their starting center and play a four guard line-up and use freshmen Kia Stokes until Dolson returned with 10:09 remaining.
Freshmen Kia Stokes is triple teamed as she takes a shot during the second half. Stokes only scored 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in the second half but gave Uconn a presence inside while Dolson sat with four fouls.
(L to R) Kia Stokes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are pumped after Mosqueda-Lewis scored a basket and drew the foul late in the second half against Notre Dame. After hitting the free throw the Huskies trailed by two with 12:48 remaining.
She hit them both to give UConn a 67-65 lead with :11 remaining in the game, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma had this to say about the end of regulation. “I made a huge mistake of taking Kia Stokes out of the game at that point. We went with five guards so that we could switch all their screens. And in the end one defensive rebound would have won it for us. That’s the part I’m going home with.”
With five guards on the floor the Huskies pressed and Skylar Diggins missed layup bounced off the backboard as Caroline Doty lies on the floor and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tries to keep Natalie Novosel from the rebound…
I used a remote mounted along the catwalk high above the basket. With all the commotion in the closing seconds of the game I didn’t have time to pick up my camera with a long lens for the far side of the court so I reached over to the remote and just pushed the trigger hoping for something. When I got the card and started to edit the images I was happier than a pig in you know what at the results. With Doty on the floor and the sequence of players streaming into the frame it captured the what ended up being the play of the game.
“The game sometimes hangs on one play,” Auriemma said. “Kelly Faris steals the ball, misses the layup and gets two free throws. If she gets the layup and the foul shot, we’re up three instead of two.”
“As most games do, the game turned on one great play by a great player,” Auriemma said of Novosel. “And once we got into overtime, we just didn’t have enough. Brittany Mallory made two shots and that’s who we wanted to take them. God bless her, she stepped up and made them.”
Stefanie Dolson tries to compose herself as reporters ask her questions in the locker room after the 83-75 defeat. “It just sucks” she said trailing off into tears. “We worked so hard all season, and to end just end it this way, it doesn’t feel good.”
Tiffany Hayes said she was proud of her team and teammates after suffering an 83-75 loss in overtime. Many didn’t think the Huskies would make back to the Final Four but Hayes was happy they were able to be there but wished the season hadn’t ended this way.
Pro Tip: I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended a few Final Four championships. I worked as an editor/technician for staffers Rich Messina and Bradley Clift in 1999 when the men won their first title. I was in Philly and San Antonio for the women when they won in the mid 2000′s. I went to Detroit for the men’s Final Four when they lost to Michigan State in 2005. Each time I’ve gone I have had the privilege to work with some outstanding people from the Courant, the NCAA and other newspapers and wire services. Each time time I’ve come away with new friendships and knowledge.
Tim Rasmussen, Director of Photography at the Denver Post, hooked me up with his chief photographer John Ledya. He gave me advice as to what lens to use for the overhead shots at the end of regulation. He also was able to secure a spot for me on the catwalk so I could mount my camera, next to probably 8 others from various papers and wires services. I owe a lot to them and Jamie Schwaberow ?of NCAA photos, who I met through Jay L. Clendenin, a former Courant photog. Contacts, experience and a little luck helped me to achieve the results I hoped for. I wish I could have stayed longer but hey, there’s always next year, and listening to Geno after the game, I would love to be in New Orleans next year for another go round. Until then…