Monday, November 27, 2006

November 26, 2006 - Final thoughts, 2006 Paradise Jam

I am making way back to the Pacific Northwest—this return journey has been much less eventful than my trip down, but a bit more roundabout (St. Thomas to New York, then New York to Seattle), but only one stop and no flight cancellations or weather delays works for me. I thought I would just share some final thoughts and musings from my first trip to the US Virgin Islands and my first, and definitely not my last, Paradise Jam experience.

As would be expected after the tragedy on our final day of play, our moods were somber as our thoughts and prayers were with the Arizona State team and their families. We were able to finish off the tournament with three great final games though. Here are the results and recaps:

Game #1 Auburn 95 W. Michigan 86 (St. John Division)
Auburn’s DeWanna Bonner and W. Michigan’s Carrie Moore lit up the gym last night with 27 and 32 points respectively and both were named to the St. Johns Division All-Tournament Team. Moore broke a 3-game tournament scoring record with 81 points, previously held by Alana Beard (Duke). Auburn was able to overcome an 18 point first half deficit to take the game and finish third in the division.

Game #2 Marquette 73 Xavier 53 (St. John Division)
Christina Quaye was named St. Johns Division Tournament MVP and led the Golden Eagles with 16 points to claim the St. John Division championship. Marquette took the lead early in the first half and never looked back. Xavier had three players score in double figures and was led by Miranda Green with 15 points.

Game #3 W. Kentucky 74 Penn State 64 (St. Thomas Division)
W. Kentucky got 29 points and nine rebounds from Crystal Kelly in their win over Penn St. to take third place in the St. Thomas Division. Kelly was named the division’s MVP and was joined on the All-Tournament team by Penn State’s Amanda Brown who led the Lady Lions with 24 points.

Game #4 Arizona State -- Rutgers -- (St. Thomas Division)
The Arizona State-Rutgers St. Thomas Division championship game was cancelled due to a team family tragedy within the ASU basketball program. A family member who had come to see ASU’s Aubree Johnson play in the Paradise Jam basketball tournament passed away while in St. Thomas. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Johnson and ASU families.

Final Standings:
St. John Division

1. Marquette (3-0)
2. Xavier (2-1)
3. Auburn (1-2)
4. W. Michigan (0-3)

St. Thomas Division
1. Arizona State / Rutgers (game cancelled)
2. N/A
3. W. Kentucky
4. Penn St.

All Tournament Teams
St. John Division

MVP: Christina Quaye - Marquette
DeWanna Bonner - Auburn
Krystal Ellis - Marquette
Miranda Green - Xavier
Amber Harris - Xavier
Carrie Moore - W. Michigan

St. Thomas Division
Amanda Brown- Penn St.
Essence Carson- Rutgers
Briann January - Arizona St.
Crystal Kelly- W. Kentucky
Kia Vaughn - Rutgers
Emily Westerberg - Arizona St.

Often we are reminded starkly to the realities of life and in the face of difficulty; I was able to witness the humanity of so many individuals in the aftermath of the ASU tragedy. It started with the response of the BTI staff to aid and comfort players and coaches, the gesture of Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer to keep her team at the hotel to assure that ASU would not be charged with a forfeit, Penn St. head coach Rene Portland who moved a family member from a nearby room so the family could be located together, and the hotel staff that responded quickly and professionally to whatever was needed. I’m sure that fans may have been disappointed at not being able to witness these two great teams play, but everyone showed compassionate understanding considering the circumstances.

Now that is all said and done, I am grateful to have met and worked with so many new people, reacquaint with high school buddy, and to spend time with an old friend (Hi Stephanie!). The Basketball Travelers, Inc. group is incredible and the opportunity to experience the culture of the US Virgin Islands was extraordinary. The locals I was able to meet and work with epitomize the “no worries” way of living. They were such accommodating people and we could not have done it without all the volunteer hours they so willingly put in. I think I overheard that we had about 120 volunteers—PRICELESS! Many were local high school students and I found that fundamentally, they are very similar to the teenagers on the mainland—energetic, silly and perpetually laughing.

If any of you get a chance to get to St. Thomas, I hope that you get Leo as a taxi driver at least once, Violet is your server at the hotel restaurant, get a chance to ride in an open air taxi, take the sky ride to Paradise Point and enjoy a Bushwacker at sunset, get out on a catamaran and snorkel, and that you wear lots of sunscreen and don’t get startled by the iguanas. If you’re lucky enough to come around Thanksgiving and enjoy a Paradise Jam tournament, be sure to say hello to Nels, Nancy, Craig, Jenn and Katie—they would love to see you. Au revoir from da’ islands—see you next year!


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