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Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 12:00 am

Tourney puts Los Fresnos on map

The Brownsville Herald

Roy Hess

At first, it seemed a little far-fetched.

Duke, the top-ranked womens college basketball team in the country, playing

at Los Fresnos High School?

Back in October, when I asked Kim Edquist, coach of the Los Fresnos Lady

Falcons, about her teams prospects for the upcoming season, she casually

mentioned that Duke, Iowa State and Detroit-Mercy would play at her school

right after Christmas.

I checked the schedules of the three womens teams on their schools Web

sites, and sure enough, they were coming to the Rio Grande Valley for the

South Padre Island Shootout. The event was switched to Los Fresnos after a

scheduling conflict arose at South Padre Island Convention Centre.

The Convention Centres loss was Los Fresnos gain.

Valley fans, Winter Texans and enthusiasts from other parts of the country

descended upon Los Fresnos Friday, Saturday and Sunday and were treated to a

womens basketball event unlike anything weve ever experienced.

OK, the Valley already has a womens college team in the University of

Texas-Pan American and the Lady Broncs have played host to highly ranked teams

Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky in Sun Belt Conference games within the

past decade or so.

Still, this was different. There were sell-out crowds for two of the three

games. Plus, the game not involving Duke, which was clearly the stellar

tournament attraction, still drew approximately 1,100 fans to witness a

down-to-the-wire finish between ISU and Detroit-Mercy.

Theres a simple maxim that applies to teams from Little League to the pros,

regardless if its high school football or Little Miss Kickball: If you win,

they will come.

The fans who traveled to Los Fresnos primarily came to see top-ranked and

undefeated Duke, while a number of them also turned out to support ISU, which

has had a winning program in recent years. The Cyclones have won 20 or more

games for five seasons. This year they are rebuilding, but still capable of

drawing a loyal following.

If there were apprehensions by any of the coaches or players about having the

tournament in a high school gym, they didnt voice them. Rather, the players

and coaches from all three teams said they were impressed by the fans warm

response and capacity crowds.

The best part about this (tournament) was the fan support, said Alana Beard,

Dukes 5-foot-11 All-America guard-forward who won tournament MVP honors and

dazzled fans with a variety of fast-break baskets, long-range shooting, blocks

and steals. We all appreciate seeing a packed gym.

Beard seemed to sum up the feelings of everyone involved.

If there was a drawback, it was that some fans were turned away on the nights

Duke played due to a lack of seating.

Regardless, it was a memorable event. Lets hope the tournament organizers

bring it to the Valley again next year.

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