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Final score: Storm 61 – Fire 56 (W) (8-8)

Attendance | 7928

Anthem Xtra Notes | A couple

Anthem High Note | S'okay

Anthem Style | Folk balladeer

Fan Noise | Them: Quiet – Us: Psychotic

Signs | A lot, including a setup

Fan Psyche | Them: What the? – Us: Oh yeah!!

Halftime | Kid's scrimmage

Conventional basketball wisdom holds that after just about any emotional win/loss or extended overtime game and when facing a rested opponent the next night, any given team will lose and probably lose badly. Mental, physical and emotional fatigue is supposed to be so intense that the odds that such a team, like the Storm, can win are slim to none. Add in the fact that the Fire have been playing pretty well lately and almost beat the Comets a few nights ago. Conventional wisdom is against us.

Yeah, well… we don’t need no stinking conventional wisdom.

That’s right. Not only do the Storm win, they do it well. Lauren gets her first “real” double double (we don’t count the one from last night since it took two overtimes before she got her 10th rebound). True, there is almost a 9-minute scoring drought during the second half. But guess what, the Fire can’t score either. The last Utah game aside, this is one of the best defensive games we have seen the Storm play. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. We have a little matter to discuss first.…

Spot, the Fire mascot.

In the ever-growing pantheon of Storm arch-villains (which so far includes Lisa Leslie, Debbie Black and Tuly Bevilaqua – additional nominees, anyone?), a new pedestal is being reserved for Spot. Oh, he looks loveable (shouldn’t someone be calling Disney to report a missing 101 Dalmatian?), but he is a devious little bugger. He knew we were coming and planned a little ambush.

Before the game starts, we of course start yelling our fool heads off nearly every time a Storm player leaves the court, enters the court or moves even slightly in our direction (we are sitting in the corner of the stadium, above the tunnel the visiting players use). To our delight, there is a guy sitting behind the Storm bench with a huge “I (heart symbol) Storm” sign, which he proudly shows to us. We, like the trusting souls that we are, give him a big cheer. Great, we think, we aren’t the only Storm fans in attendance.

Spot makes his way to our section and plays nice to begin with, getting a couple of high-fives. He then begins his psychological warfare campaign by brandishing a “Where’s Dopler” sign (he’s a dog, you can’t expect him to spell correctly), and giving us his best bodybuilder poses. We cheer him down with “Go Spot, go,” which quickly becomes “Neuter Spot, neuter.” Oh yeah, we can play too.

Round 1 – Storm Fans.

There is about 75-80 fans in our group, but do ever we make some noise. There is a definite echo inside the Rose Garden. With the UW megaphones that Beancounter gives to Angie and I, along with the crazed screams of the Simone Zone crew, our little group is giving the other 7,000 in attendance a run for their money. And the Storm are giving us a lot to cheer about.

Six paragraphs into the story and I’m just now getting to the game. You’re not going to find quality, to-the-point reporting like this in the traditional media. Anyway, what a game! From the get go, the Storm do not look tired or beaten or fatigued. This is one occasion when Coach Dunn’s substitute early, substitute often scheme not only makes sense, but works awfully well. Every player in a jersey gets some playing time tonight. If we hadn’t sat through the 60-minute game the night before, we wouldn’t have believed they played it by the way they are performing tonight.

The defense is disruptive, aggressive and consistent. The offense… well, the offense is doing pretty well too, except for a couple of problems. The first is Semeka. We don’t want to sound harsh or unappreciative, but she is the only Storm player that seems to be making poor decisions with the ball. She tries to drive and loses control of the ball, turnover out-of-bounds. She tries to drive, spins and gets called for a charge. She tries to drive, heads into a double- or triple-team and heaves up a bad shot which leads to a Fire fast break. We like Semeka, we like her a lot. She is passionate, energetic and, at times, oozes talent. She also turns the ball over and takes bad shots sometimes. Hopefully, the experience of 3M and Sonja will help Semeka get past these tendancies and turn her into the potential superstar she can be.

Early on in the first half, the guy with the “I love Storm” sign moves over in front of us and actually gets up on the arenavision. Of course, all the Fire fans boo and hiss while we cheer and scream. It doesn’t occur to us that he’s getting on the screen while we haven’t yet. Hmmm.

The second problem in the game is the officiating. It’s hard to not start complaining about the officials when the calls are either so bad or missed so blatantly. Lauren, Simone, Stacey, Michelle and Jamie all get hacked repeatedly without getting any calls. Jackie Stiles gets any call she wants. If the refs were consistent and called the same fouls on both ends, we could live with that, but they aren’t. Lauren has commented on this in the press and says that it is up to her to adjust. How can a player adjust to the officiating style if it keep changing for every play? Enough.

It’s nearly the end of the first half and the Storm are keeping up with the Fire. The score is low, but tied. With a few minutes left, Spot, that dark-hearted mongrel, completes his evil plan. We see him coming up the aisle with a vacuum cleaner strapped to his back. Is he going to try and taunt us with a sweep, even though this is only the second of three games between the two teams? Oh no, he’s more cunning than that. He goes up to the guy with the big “I love Storm” sign and vacuums off the S, R and M so that the sign reads “I love OR,” as in Oregon. The fiend. And the crowd goes wild.

Round 2 – Spot.

The half ends tied at 25. The halftime entertainment is a scrimmage between kids who have attended a basketball camp. Some of these kids are pretty good. In fact, instead of the normal moving knot approach to pee-wee basketball that ends up looking more like a rugby scrum, these kids are executing plays, playing their positions, forcing turnovers and hitting shots. That must have been a heck of a basketball camp.

The second half begins and the Storm keep up the pressure, but start to look a little flat. The Fire build a 7-point lead, and with our bench in, things appear to be getting out of hand. With these slow pace, low scoring games, the danger is always that if one team breaks out and scores a bunch of points or even if they get a small lead, like 7, it can be very difficult for the other team to come back. We start to feel a little nervous.

But wait. Is that a bird, a plane… no, it’s Jamie Redd to the rescue. Jamie starts driving to the basket and either getting scores or getting fouls. 3M, Stacey and Charmin bring their energy and all that nasty nervousness starts to melt away. Steals, blocked shots, and GASP rebounds keep the Storm in the game and the Fire from pulling away. It’s with about 5 or 6 minutes left that Lauren gets the fabled double double. The Storm take the lead and don’t relinquish it.

This is not to say that it was an easy win. Jackie Stiles has a way of scoring extremely fast and keeps cutting the lead back to 5 or 4 points. Super Redd answers every time though by getting fouls and hitting her free throws. Jamie ends up with 18 points, most of them in the second half. Conventional wisdom be damned. Against all odds, the Storm beat the Fire.

Round 3 – Storm fans.

We’d like to think that we helped the team with our embolism-inducing, vocal cord-tearing screaming and cheering, and they give us waves as they exit the floor. Coach Dunn blows us a kiss. Even Spot gives us a good-sportsman salute when he leaves. It’s all in fun, but he’s still evil.

Notes:

Making a lot of noise with just a few people – if there’s one lesson learned tonight, it’s that we can roar when we want to. A suggestion to the Storm – low attendance or not, the Key can rock if we choose to get it going. With just a couple megaphones, a few pompoms and some cooperation during cheers, our group produced some serious volume. Maybe the Storm could give out or even sell the 9” tall plastic megaphones, or hand out the blow-up clappers that the Fire fans were given. Let’s make up for mediocre attendance with some big time noise.

We start cheering “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi” after Lauren’s made free throws. It seems to catch her off guard because the first time we do it, she gives us a funny look. Coach Dunn looks back at the bench shaking her head with a big smile on her face. First, for all of the Australians in the Storm fan universe, is there a proper way to do that cheer? The last time we tried to do something for one of our international players, Angie and I ended up making a sign in Czech that said, “Kamila, you are self,” which led Kamila to think we were crazy (we were trying for “Kamila, you are #1” – that’s what you get for using an internet translator). Before we completely mangle your national cheer, a little advice on how to do it – thanks. Second, once we get it right, we HAVE to start doing this at the Key.

Chamique Holdsclaw is sitting in the front row during the game. We can only hope that the Mystics put the same brand of hurt on the Fire as they did on us.

There are several other Storm fans in the stands. We know they are real, unlike the evil Spot’s henchman, because they are wearing Storm gear and are just as happy with the outcome as we are.

Finally, we need to come up with something good to return the favor to Spot when the Fire play up in Seattle on July 20th. Not only was our mascot maligned, but that mutt played us good with that sign. We won the game, but a more complete response is called for.