Have plenty of thoughts about the WNBA finals over on ESPN.com, but want to take the opportunity on the blog to follow up on the previous post about the Sunflower State connections in the series.
With Phoenix’s 94-86 victory over Indiana in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals, Kansas State grad Nicole Ohlde wins her first league title. Kansas grad Tamecka Dixon, a solid bench contributor for the Fever this season, wasn’t able to add to the two titles she won with Los Angeles.
Dixon was still in good spirits after the game, as it seemed like most of the Fever players were disappointed but not necessarily devastated by the loss. I think they realized how well-played the series was and how tough a team Phoenix is for anyone to beat.
As for the Mercury, one of the trades the team made preparing for a run at the 2009 title was bringing Ohlde in from Minnesota, where her only previous playoff experience was her rookie season in 2004. This summer, she came back from foot and wrist injuries and gave Phoenix some good minutes off the bench.
Ohlde’s parents are experienced travelers from their days of following her at K-State. But with work commitments and a new grandchild back home in Kansas, they weren’t sure they could get to Phoenix for Game 5. When I asked after Game 4 if she thought her parents could make the trip to Arizona, Ohlde jokingly said she might be trumped by her new niece.
However, in the joyful locker room of the Mercury after Friday’s game, Stan and Marlene Ohlde were indeed there with other family members of the team, celebrating with their daughter.
“I mean, it’s pretty indescribable,” Ohlde said. “I was just telling my mom and dad that, after never winning a playoff game before and then coming here and being around such amazing people, I am so happy.”
Ohlde played in the NCAA Tournament three of her seasons at K-State, making the Sweet 16 as a sophomore, but then losing very tough second-round games as a junior and senior. After the Wildcats lost to Notre Dame in 2003, their locker room was one of the most despondent I’ve ever seen.
And my vivid memory of the Wildcats’ loss at Minnesota in 2004 is of Ohlde, waiting to inbound the ball near the end of a blowout loss, knowing her college career was over. I recall the sad, weary way she looked … as if many disappointments were all hitting her at once.
Of course, it’s not fair at all to say that there was really anything that “disappointing” about her days at K-State. She was a two-time All-American who helped change the whole way the Wildcat women’s basketball program was looked at. Yes, she and the Wildcats never got as far in the postseason as they hoped, but they gave fans many, many great moments.
Ohlde is known for her smile, and it couldn’t have been bigger than it was on Friday night here in Phoenix.
“I have a lot of great memories at Kansas State and want to represent the school as well as I can,” she said. “This is for all the times we put in sweat and tears at (Bramlage Coliseum).
She wants to be an even bigger contributor to the Mercury next season.
“I’m going overseas right away, and I think it’s a matter of playing a lot of minutes over there to get back in my rhythm,” she said. “I hope to be injury-free, so when I come back here I can help these guys out more.”
Ohlde is heading back home to Clay Center, Kan., for a few days with family and friends before leaving for her overseas commitment in Hungary. She wasn’t going to ride back with her parents, however. They had to return early Saturday … she still had a champions’ parade to attend in Phoenix.