Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Your Santa Cruz Warriors
Last year the NBA’s Golden State Warriors decided to start a D-League team in Santa Cruz, our county seat. Although this area has a reputation for not getting things done, the powers that be were able to approve a modular basketball arena (capacity around 2,600) for the team, and it started playing in November 2012.
We never got to a game that first season, but with our son Nick coming home from the Army for Christmas, I suggested a Warriors game as a family activity and actually got everybody to agree. So that’s how, this past Sunday night, we were at Kaiser Permanente Arena at 6 p.m. for tipoffs of the game between the Santa Cruz Warriors and the Idaho Stampede.
During my misspent youth I spent a lot of time playing basketball, mostly playground and gym pickup games. I was probably the 35th best player at our high school, and since only the top 12 make varsity, was out of the picture. But I still love the game and was looking forward to checking out the new local team.
Watch Out for the Little Guy
The arena being small, all the seats were pretty good. We had tickets in the tenth row up from the floor, a bit off midcourt and could see everything pretty well. During warmups, I noticed that Santa Cruz had a player who was way shorter than everybody else and made a mental note to keep an eye on him. If you’re on the roster at that size, you must have something on the ball.
His name was Kiwi Gardner, and he’s officially listed at 5-7, though I have my doubts. He played college ball at Providence (almost everyone on the roster was in a pretty good college program), but didn’t come into the game until the second quarter.
When he did get in, he quickly made his mark. He handled the ball well, drove fearlessly through the tall trees, and tied with another player as the team’s leading scorer with 19 points.
On one play, he trailed an Idaho player several inches taller on a fast break, then went over the guy’s shoulder to block his shot, touching nothing but ball with his hand. Unfortunately, he had to jump so high, he kneed the fellow in the shoulders and got called for a foul, but even so, it takes a real athlete to make that play.
Halfcourt Shots and Dancing Kids
Both teams were shooting cold and missed a number of shots on good looks, so the final was 95-91, Santa Cruz. At the end of the third quarter, an Idaho player threw up a prayer from the sideline near the top of his team’s key and it caught nothing but net. It didn’t influence the outcome, but might have covered the spread. I didn’t check.
They played 48 minutes, just like the NBA, and got the game done in a crisp two hours and 15 minutes. There were no TV timeouts, but during breaks there were midcourt activities sponsored by local businesses. Festivities included a break-dancing competition between kids 5-10, a chance to win a thousand dollars by sinking a half-court shot (not even close), a pizza-dough tossing exhibition, and an event sponsored by a local bank, in which a blindfolded kid got 30 seconds to scoop up as many dollar bills as he could from a bagful strewn on the floor.
All in all it was pretty good basketball with some wholesome, corny fun during the interludes. At $35 a ticket, I’d rate it a good value and wouldn’t be averse to going back again.