It’s astonishing to think of the artistry that goes into a basketball game. Obviously, there are the players, who put their hearts and souls into their craft, but there are so many more players who add to the atmosphere: the pep band, the dancers, the announcer, the student employee running the game clock, the crowd. As a casual watcher of sports, it’s easy for my eye to get drawn to everything happening in the space — and the Women’s Basketball game on Feb. 17 (UR’s Yellowjackets vs. Brandeis’ Judges) had a lot of eye candy for a poor journalist more used to playing in a high school pep band for a basketball game rather than covering it.
Basketball is a sport all about emotional beats — as is any sport, but when you’re working past such fast back-and-forth action with minimal pauses, those small changes in pace push and pull the tension in drastic ways.
One such way happens in the first quarter: #30 for Brandeis, senior guard Emma Reavis, just stands there for a second during a contemplative lull in the game. She rocks slightly back onto her heels, prepping, flexing, and then the ball gets passed her way. She misses it, not paying attention, reaches out an arm in delayed response — and then all of a sudden, everything is happening. She hits the floor, gunning for the ball, as a UR player guns for it as well. They’re scrambling on the floor, battling to gain control, and as soon as the moment has come, it’s over and off to the other side of the court.
Similarly, #1, senior guard Maura Leverone, has this control of her timing that makes me lean in every time she attempts to break past the defense for a shot. It’s as if her speed goes from zero to 60 at once as she rockets around a guard, cutting in for a quick layup 15 seconds before the end of the first quarter.
In the slower moments, there are still things to be found. There’s lots of little moments of intimacy within each free throw. After #25, graduate student and forward Katie Titus, goes to shoot, she high fives three of her teammates: one on each side and one behind, as if it’s second nature, and it is. Her ponytail bounces as she winds — one, two bounces on the heels, an extension, and whoosh. It’s as if her fingertips are magicking the ball into the net.
A woman in a green parka entertains a baby as the end of the first quarter comes. Hands flailing: out, in, to the sides. The baby probably isn’t paying attention to the game, too busy toddling little giggly mid-air steps while being hoisted in the air, but if he was, he’d watch Titus make the most nonchalant layup possible. It’s nothing to her — but it’s everything to the crowd, who whisper about her as she sinks shot after shot. She’s a recent addition to the team (originally hailing from Daemen University, a D2 school) but she’s a natural on the UR court as well.
That honor is not so lucky for #5, senior guard Alexis Sestric, who almost gets hit in the face with a ball right before the end of the first half. She nearly laughs, taken aback, and then seconds later, she’s ripping the ball over to Titus — who lands yet another three. Sestric keeps getting unlucky, attempting to hit shot after shot with no luck.
By the end of the first half — and after a well-synced but slightly awkward to watch halftime performance from Royals Dance Team — UR’s down 40–41, but they keep fighting to get ahead, 52–51, a couple minutes before the third quarter ends. Sestric goes for yet another three and misses. My friends in the student section, clad in all black to show support for the Black players on behalf of the Black Students Union (BSU), groan. They came in at the top of the second half and yet they’re already invested.
“Ugh, if she made that, that would’ve been sick,” says junior Shana Brown-Thompson, which earns a couple “mhm”s of agreement — including from myself. I start getting invested. Every time Sestric attempts a long shot I hold my breath, every time someone sinks a three-pointer I feel my pupils dilate. Brandeis senior guard Tathiana Pierre, #44, fakes someone out around eight minutes out from the end of the game, and it’s as she needle-drop drags the rhythm of the game back for a second. Everyone on the court springs forward, propelled back into action with minimal resistance, and I’m hooked.
The most on-the-ball (for lack of a better term) seems to be Reavis, as I soon come to find out, goes hard the entire game, racking up four personal fouls by the end. There’s a moment where she full-arm launches the ball across the court after a minor scuffle. She’s wearing a short-sleeved jersey, but watching the whole range of motion of her arm cannoning the ball as she hefts is still breathtaking. She doesn’t stop, even when she scrapes herself up a little bit on the floor, skidding on her right thigh after taking a hit. She laughs — still visible even from as far up as I am in the stands — and wipes herself down with a pad before immediately launching back out there. For a wuss to even minor injury such as I, it’s a glorious display of will.
Sestric keeps getting closer and closer to hitting a shot, and 38.4 seconds out from the end of the game, there’s a timeout called. Brandeis has hit a couple breathtaking threes and it’s now, all of a sudden, 78–67. Two more timeouts get called relatively soon after as the game starts to drag Brandeis, nearly gritting their collective teeth, to a finish line. I hold my breath, and then Sestric gets fouled on. Beat. She’s going to hit these free throws, I feel it in my bones, and she does. It’s as if it was meant to be written. Moments like these are the ones that make me remember the importance of collegiate sports, and at a D3 school, it can be easy to discount them as few and far between, but the synergy between this group is palpable and holds exciting prospects — especially with their current 16–7 overall record.
UR wins, 81–70, and Titus, while one point away from hitting the single-game program record, ends up with a career high of 39 points (and the brightest I’ve seen someone burn in a basketball game) for the evening.