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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

Player to watch: Arroyo Grande freshman guard Kathleen Hutchens 12/31/2017

Menlo plus Atherton HS beat Menlo of Atherton School 64-57 to win the Coaches vs. Cancer championship game Saturday in … East Palo Alto.

Arroyo Grande beat Capuchino of San Bruno 55-44 to win the consolation game at Menlo (Eastside Prep hosted half the games, Menlo School the other — I imagine it was intended that if Menlo reached the final, it would be played at the neutral site.). For me, that was the main event because Arroyo Grande has a freshman guard who will be exceptional.

Kathleen Hutchens has court vision beyond her years. She completes passes short and long to teammates that most players will not recognize as possible, and goes to the basket when it’s the correct option. She’s a calm ballhandler in fast break traffic and when (seemingly) trapped by defenders.

She’s the coach’s daughter, which is not surprising at all. Coaches’ kids typically have a higher ‘basketball IQ’ than others.

The basketball somehow finds players with instincts like that. Against Capuchino, she gathered nine rebounds — maybe as many as 11 if the scorer was inclined. I recorded her line as 3-for-5 FG, 0-for-4  3FG (in two games, I didn’t see her make a shot from further than 15 feet, but there’s a shooter in there — she has two 20-point games so far — and shooting can be practiced, whereas court vision like hers is a natural talent), nine rebounds (2 off / 7 def), one assist on a long lead pass over the pack, one steal, one block, three turnovers (one skip pass landed in the seats, which in the case of excellent playmakers is a feature, not a bug), three personal fouls.

Before Hutchens, the two players who made a brilliant impression on me in just a few trips across the floor were Kendall Kenyon, who rewrote Pacific’s record book, and Marissa Janning, who was Big East player of the year. I figure Hutchens will be at least as good as that, if my judgment is still reliable.

Arroyo Grande HS plays in the league with Righetti HS, which produced two all-Big West players for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo a few miles away. Kathleen Hutchens is probably on Coach Mimnaugh’s radar already. Cal Poly and Fresno State are 200-mile drives, and that’s as far as I’ve been willing to travel for a game without staying in town overnight. It might be too much to consider that trip for a high school game, but I’ve got four years to think about it.

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It’s Menlo of Atherton vs. Menlo with Atherton in the Coaches vs. Cancer championship game Saturday 12/29/2017

Menlo School outscored Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.) 15-4 in overtime to win 70-59, and advance to the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament at Menlo.

Senior Mallory North and freshman Coco Layton each scored five points in overtime for the Knights (8-0), who face crosstown opponents Menlo-Atherton Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Eastside Prep in East Palo Alto. Menlo-Atherton won their semifinal 43-35 against St. Mary’s Academy of Portland, Ore.

The largest lead for either team during regulation was eight.


My basketball friend in Queens is a stickler for certain things on the court. She would’ve gone apoplectic with 2:01 remaining in overtime.

Menlo led 62-59, and Layton was shooting free throws. Her teammates were all on the other side of the building, protecting their lead. Layton made the first to make it 63-59, but missed the second. With four Eastlake defenders under the basket, and none for Menlo but the shooter, Eastlake allowed Layton to slip through for the rebound and putback. That broke Eastlake’s spirit — they didn’t score again.


I provided MaxPreps with score-by-score updates for two games Friday. When I called the local newspaper to ask if they wanted my brief about the Menlo game, they said they already had it in the paper from my updates.

It’s not the “Menlo in Atherton” vs. “Menlo plus Atherton” championship game tomorrow that interests me as much as the consolation game: Arroyo Grande vs. Peninsula Athletic League power Capuchino.

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Pacific shares first place, but doesn’t yet instill great confidence 01/15/2017

Tommy Full Color on whiteMy fear about the three teams I’m watching this season — Cal, Pacific, Utah — is that they’re good enough to be disappointing.

As the Golden Bears visit the Utes in Salt Lake City Sunday, the Bears are 2-3 in Pac-12 play, one game ahead of the Utes and the bottom of the Pac.

Unfortunately, either Gottlieb’s or Roberts’ bunch has to lose tomorrow, but as displeasing that is, I plan to bicycle downtown in the morning, and ask the place with many TVs to put on Pac-12 women’s basketball.

Cal and Utah have one thing in common: a lone senior — Cal’s Range and Utah’s Crozon — who can sometimes shoot the hell out of it. Both teams both suffer for a lack of seniors.

Pacific was wretched last week in a 55-68 home loss to BYU, though the week before that, the Tigers beat Gonzaga in Spokane. It’s hard to tell with this team — when they’re bad, they’re over-reliant on one player; when everyone’s involved, they’re good. (It’s junior guard GeAnna Luaulu-Summers on whom Pacific depends — against USF, she broke the school record for free throws in a game — but it was Desire Finnie’s steal of an inbounds pass plus layup that stretched the Pacific run to 11-0 and the lead.) When they’re bad, it’s sometimes because they’re too short for some critical rebounds; but especially when the Tiger forwards scrap for offensive rebounds, they’re good. When one Tiger is seen trying to do too much, the whole team can follow suit and fall apart.

Pacific came back late against San Francisco Saturday, winning 63-60 despite trailing 59-50 with 3:30 remaining. It rivaled a 2011 win at Nevada, when the Tigers made up 12 points in the last three minutes, and won in overtime. The thing about the 2011 game was that the Tigers were clearly driven as a team to win the overtime, to make up missing the last shot in regulation. The win today against San Francisco carried no such suggestion — though the Tigers ran off 13 straight points to lead 63-59 with 1:12 to go, their last possession at Pepperdine Thursday mean four points was quite unsafe.

A steal by sophomore guard Ameela Li gave Pacific a chance Thursday in Malibu, down 58-59 with 0:37 left, but their last possession never took form. That loss, coupled with the BYU disaster, made me think Pacific would get to March in 6th place.

Then again, if you consider the win at Gonzaga plus today’s reassuring comeback against San Francisco — and the fact that no one’s running off with the West Coast Conference this season; Pacific, and three others are tied at 4-2 — maybe they’ll be OK come tournament time. Especially if Pepperdine is actually a good team — I mean, if the Waves’ final defensive stop at 0:37 was by design, it makes the whole win appear stronger (and Pacific less clunky at the same time).

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Kristine Anigwe’s 50-point game against Sacramento State was pretty routine, actually 12/11/2016

Logo_GoldenBear_whtA few years ago, while Cal was headed to the Final Four, coach Lindsey Gottlieb said that Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer — whose Cardinal have owned the region for 1,000 years — was glad that another Pac-12 team was climbing toward elite status.

The rising tide floated all boats, because look at the Pac-12 today: Teams in the Pac-12 Conference are a combined 86-13. Colorado was #11 in the preseason poll, but the Buffaloes are 9-0 and #18 in the country. Following Cal’s 97-73 win over Sacramento State Friday, the Golden Bears are 8-0, their best start in program history. (Like Cal, Utah was predicted to place in the middle of the dozen, and the Utes are 9-0 after downing interstate rival Brigham Young 77-60 Saturday. Utah shouldn’t be in the Pac-12, but OK since it means coach Lynne Roberts and her Pacific captain Kendall Rodriguez have to visit the Bay Area at least once.)

No matter what Cal does against Lehigh Sunday, sophomore forward Kristine Anigwe is probably the conference player of the week, given her team record 50 points plus 14 rebounds against Sacramento State.

It was an impressively efficient performance — 50 points on 19-of-23 shooting in 24 minutes played — but it really was not a spectacular game. Remember last month when Anigwe had 29 and 19 in two games at the Cal Classic, and I said it was a pretty bad weekend? That was because she’s capable of 50 points in 24 minutes.

The conditions were right for Anigwe’s 50 — Cal was moving the ball (29 assists on 40 field goals vs. the Hornets), and Sacramento State is vulnerable against agile forwards. The Hornets spread the floor on offense because they’re aiming for a record number of threes every night, and they spread themselves defensively to give themselves a jump on a fast break — though that leaves them helpless against a forward who can split the seams and get behind the defense. Pacific’s Kendall Kenyon — the swiftest and most mobile forward I’ve ever seen — had 28 points and 21 rebounds against Sacramento State, but the Hornets’ strategy was fruitful, and the Hornets knocked the Tigers out of the NIT.

Anigwe had 60 points in sight. Her four missed field goals could’ve bounced differently, and she said it herself: “I missed too many free throws”. A couple of additional field goals plus an improvement on 12-of-19 from the free throw line would have totaled 60 — *that* I might’ve termed spectacular. Coach Gottlieb said again that Anigwe “makes the crazy look ordinary” and that each of her field goals came within the flow of the offense.

I tweeted during the second half — while Anigwe was a few points shy of Alexis Gray-Lawson’s Cal record 47 — that she might break the record, but the play I’d remember would be her 50-foot outlet pass to start a Anigwe-to-Mo Mosley-to-MiCole Cayton fast break. Cayton had to finish that play crossing under the basket, which made it highlight reel material. That play won’t even show in Anigwe’s boxscore totals, but a reporter at the press conference said it was the first time Anigwe looked happy all night. “[Mosley] can run,” Anigwe said. “I knew if I pass it ahead of her, she’s gonna get the ball.” The sophomore Mosley did, then found freshman Cayton flying from the other wing.

50 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist that would appear in a hockey boxscore: “There’s not a more complete post player in the country,” said Gottlieb.

East Bay basketball fans are suddenly spoiled — they’ve grown accustomed to the spectacular. When Curry or Thompson have remarkable games, they’re raining threes from everywhere; their defenders have to move out to meet them, and the Splash Brothers step further out. That’s spectacular — what Anigwe did was dependable and efficient (and expected — considering what our Kendall did on a good night for the Hornets, I thought an easy 30 was in store for Anigwe on a good night for the Golden Bears).

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For a similar dependence on one player, the 2016-17 Pacific Tigers at 3-5 evoke the 2013-14 team at 5-7 12/08/2016

Tommy Full Color on whitePacific got off to a slow start in 2013-14. In December, I sent an email to coach Lynne Roberts:

“When Madison Parrish scores X points, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish shoots X percent, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish pulls X rebounds, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish makes X assists, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish makes X steals, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.”

When the Fresno State transfer did stuff, Pacific won; otherwise, they did not. Coach said yep, we are not good when we are that reliant on one player.

Pacific’s trouble in 2016-17 is that the Tigers are similarly dependent on junior guard GeAnna Luaulu-Summers.

The Tigers won two games in week one when they scored 210 points against UC Merced and San Jose State — Luaulu-Summers recorded double points-plus-assists in both games, and was named West Coast Conference player of the week.

However, Luaulu-Summers left the San Jose State game early with a knock to the head, after which the Tigers blew a late lead, but won in overtime. Wholly without Luaulu-Summers for three games against a good UC Davis team, then Montana St. and Marquette on the Thanksgiving weekend, Pacific lost them all — the Tiger Turkey Tipoff games were particularly telling because traditionally, when you host a holiday tournament, you invite opponents you fully expect to beat.

Considering how seriously athletic organizations take head injuries these days, I thought Pacific’s #15 might have been done for the season, and the team might’ve been toast, accordingly.

However, Luaulu-Summers (my mnemonic for spelling her last name: “Lua” is an undersung programming language, “ulu” is useful at Scrabble because U is a crappy tile unless it accompanies Q, and if you are stuck with two U’s, then ULU is a convenient dump of two of them) returned for Pacific’s 91-61 thrashing of Cal State Bakersfield, in which she recorded 20 pts, 4 rb, 7 ast, 3 stl.

I presented my “uh oh, we count on GeAnna like we did Madi in 2013, and we weren’t good then” hypothesis to Pacific coach Bradley Davis, who said: “We’re bringing along the newcomers (sophomore Ameela Li and freshman Callie Owens) to address that, so we won’t have to be so reliant on GeAnna.”

Last Wednesday, the prevailing theory held when Pacific visited Long Beach State — preseason favorites in the Big West Conference — and the 49ers won 66-58, while Luaulu-Summers made six turnovers and four fouls.

Perhaps a second straight rebuilding year is in store at Pacific. The seniors are roleplayers — a three-headed forward contributes 14 points and 13 rebounds (always loved Emily Simons because she relishes defending much bigger opponents, and never taking a questionable shot — she’ll break Pacific’s field goal percentage record if she tries the required attempts). Guard Unique Coleman lost more than a year to a knee injury, and looks like a player who’s still recovering from a serious knee injury.

I thought wing Desire Finnie would be the headliner among Pacific’s class of 2018, though her junior numbers are not yet improved over her all-conference sophomore statistics. Guard Najah Queenland is inconsistent, going from brilliant to what-the-hell on consecutive possessions.

It’s sophomore guard Chelsea Lidy who’s opening eyes around Spanos Center. In 20 minutes per game, she’s the team’s second-leading scorer while shooting 60 percent behind the three-point line. Sophomore Tylah King makes 58 percent of her treys, also.

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By association, Charles Barkley’s 1993 Phoenix Suns played little girly basketball, according to Charles Barkley 12/02/2016

sunslog_1TNT troll Charles Barkley got some attention Thursday for saying about the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors: “I’m never going to like that little girly basketball where you have to outscore people.”

Folks are in a tizzy because 1) Barkley said “little girly basketball” like it’s a bad thing, and 2) Barkley equated the darling Warriors with the bad thing.

He’s just projecting. Because what did our 1993 Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns do? We outscored people. #1 in OffRtg, #9 in DefRtg, 2nd to the Bulls in the Finals.

I’ve watched many girls play harder, and tougher defensively, than Charles Barkley did as a Sun. For instance, when Griner sets her mind to it, she’s one of the best defenders to play in The Arena That Charles Built. (When the Suns opened America West Arena in 1992, revitalizing downtown Phoenix, and hopefully signaling a new era for Phoenix Suns basketball, the brass looked at our pretty new building and the conversation was something like: “We have to decorate with a championship banner.” “We have to get us a Charles Barkley.” It was supposed to be a year like none other: New building, new coach, new Charles Barkley. Unfortunately, same old Michael Jordan.)

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In the Cal Classic final, Cal looked very together 11/27/2016

Logo_GoldenBear_whtIn the Cal Classic final against Duquesne, Cal got 51 points and 23 rebounds from three all-tournament forwards, and beat the Dukes 86-66.

Cal senior forward Courtney Range — they might list her as a “guard-forward”, which doesn’t describe Range as well as it describes most 2/3/4s — was the most valuable player in more than than one way. She’s taken on the senior responsibility at press conferences — she’s the union representative for 12 Cal students, which requires poise and fluency. Range also gathered 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in two games.

Cal’s public address man calls the occasional Range trey with: “Long range three”. It’s a clever call, well used sparingly.

Sophomore Kristine Anigwe recorded 29 and 19, and I bet you could find people who’d say she had a bad weekend. Coach Gottlieb said Anigwe was making the extraordinary look ordinary, so substitute “ordinary” for “bad”. Anigwe made 29 and 19 look ordinary and somewhat disappointing.

Junior Penina Davidson is likes James Worthy in this regard: Worthy was the quietly dominant one in the Big Three dynamic of those great Lakers teams.

Ballhandling guard Asha Thomas made one turnover in the Cal Classic. She reminded me of Coach Mary Hegarty, who used to say she was just giving the ball to Denise Curry at UCLA, in an ironic bit of self-deprecation and unselfishness.

Junior guard Mikayla Cowling had 19 points and 14 assists. Those numbers made me think: “Huh? Really?”, because I feel like I wasn’t paying attention.

So this is the best thing I can say about the Golden Bears at their home tournament: Their guards were quietly spectacular. This coincides with what Coach Gottlieb said about her team: “We’ve got so many pieces to put together, and today you saw all of them.”

The worst thing I can say about the Golden Bears is to recite the old principle that the home team naturally invites three teams in the “stretch us hard but likely not beat us, especially when we play together” range. I hope the team takes that in a tongue-in-cheek, challenging way.

About the all-Cal Classic players from visiting teams:

USF senior guard Rachel Howard earned it. USF is a rocky program, rebuilding everywhere. I liked their senior guard Raushan Gultekin — she’s noticeable for diving under bigger players, and getting to the ball first. Then while I think to write that down, she’s chasing another loose ball.

Duquesne sophomore guard Chassidy Omogrosso was deserving. Duquesne is a striking family organization — they actually read each others’ retweets. Good basketball team, too.

Western Carolina junior forward Sherae Bonner had 15 points and 26 rebounds. Bonner had the Catamounts’ only double-double — none of her teammates made two doubles, which suggests their team’s unevenness.

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Cal is 4-0 on the eve of their Cal Classic 11/24/2016

Pacific,Logo_GoldenBear_wht California, and St. Mary’s are all hosting four-teams-for-two-days tournaments this Thanksgiving weekend. Each of those schools is among my favorite basketball venues, and as it happens, each tournament invited an additional team on my beat: Santa Clara is at Pacific, San Francisco is at Cal, and Utah is at St. Mary’s.

It’s a predicament, but there is one heavily-weighted tiebreaker in favor of Berkeley: Haas Pavilion is a six-block walk from the BART station downtown, while McKeon Pavilion in Moraga and Spanos Center in Stockton make for treacherous driving conditions even under the best weather.

So I shan’t see Coach Lynne Roberts and her Utah Utes, which is disappointing, because I think Roberts has never looked happier than she does now during her second season in Salt Lake City. Her first four seasons at Pacific were very rough, but she built a Big West Conference champion from scraps, for which she’s rewarded by promotion to the powerful Pac-12.

Utah is 8th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, which will suit a Roberts group just fine — her teams aren’t happy unless they’re underdogs. When her 2013 Pacific team was crushing opponents, even I was feeling a bit like “well, yeah, but this would be more fun if it were unexpected”.

Cal is predicted to finish in the middle of the Pac-12, a reasonable jump to expect from last season’s 4-14 shock, but a long, long way from 2013’s 16-1 Final Four.

I’ve seen the undefeated Golden Bears three times. I thought they looked disarrayed on opening night at St. Mary’s — Cal’s defense is at its best when it is swarming and stretching and coercing turnovers, but it seemed to me that when the Gaels lost the handle on the ball, there just happened to be a Bear nearby to pick it up and run. You can stick to “luck is the residue of good design”, but sometimes perhaps it’s just bouncing the right way.

They didn’t look so sharp three nights later at home against Santa Clara, either — until the second half, when they routinely capitalized on greater athleticism, lobbing the ball toward the basket with an expectation that a Golden Bear would come down with it. Cal scored 40 points in the paint, and won the second half by 18 — final 73-58.

On 11/20 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield, the Bears took advantage of the Roadrunners’ aim to open the floor end-to-end. Cal assisted on 23 of 34 field goals, while stifling every Roadrunner but one — CSUB forward Aja Williams scored 35 of their 63 points against 86 for the host Bears.

It was the second straight 20-plus-10 game for sophomore forward Kristine Anigwe. “She makes some extraordinary things look ordinary,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We’ve raised our expectations of her, which is pretty remarkable — we expect 20 and 10 from her, but now we’re asking her for more.”

The thing Cal really did right during those three games was improve noticeably. They were sloppy at St. Mary’s, better in the second half vs. Santa Clara, and getting it well together while routing Bakersfield. “We’re trying to get a little better with each game,” said Gottlieb, who cited her team’s defense against CSUB and particularly their shot selection: “We show them that this is what the great teams — Golden State and San Antonio — do: giving up good shots to get great shots.”

Next for Cal is the first round of the Cal Classic on Friday vs. San Francisco. The Dons were the hugely-surprising winners of the West Coast Conference tournament last March, going in as the #6 seed before beating #3, #2, and #1 to earn the berth in the NCAA tournament. Then coach Jennifer Azzi dropped a bomb, resigning seven weeks before the start of the 2017 season, replaced by Molly Goodenbour (who probably hadn’t furnished her new office at Cal State Hayward before leaving for USF) — I’m pleased; as much as I liked Coach Azzi, Coach Goodenbour has been a good story wherever she goes.

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