Guard Scott just as vital as Baylor posts
When Steffanie Blackmon and Sophia Young are on your team, it's a little hard to get noticed. They are Baylor's All-Big 12 post players, smooth and smoother, a four-armed (although it seems like more) rebounding machine.
Blackmon is a coach's daughter, and as such she is a perfectionist who could score 48 points, pull down 25 rebounds and still be peeved about a box-out she missed.
If you can be equal parts gazelle, butterfly and bulldog, that's Young. As in, she bounds around the court, she floats in the air and she is so tenacious under the boards.
One of my colleagues and I were childhood-reminiscing a few years back. He reminded me of that feeling you have that first day your mom lets you wear your tennis shoes to school again in the spring, after you'd been stuck with your "heavy shoes" and boots all winter. And how, when you walk outside in your sneakers again, you feel like you can jump 10 feet into the air.
It always looks like Young feels that way every day.
And she has certainly been the great emotional story so far of this NCAA Tournament. Reunited with her mother from the West Indies after having seen her just once the previous six years, Young has played as inspired as ever and was the Tempe Regional MVP as Baylor advanced Monday to the program's first Final Four.
(Quick exclamation: This is flat-out amazing. Baylor didn't even make its first NCAA Tournament appearance until coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson took over in the 2000-01 season. And, by the way, her first Final Four as a head coach came on the 23rd anniversary of her helping Louisiana Tech, as the point guard, win the first NCAA championship game. That was on March 28, 1982.)
Young had 19 points and 11 rebounds -- Blackmon 14 and seven -- in Baylor's 72-63 victory Monday night over North Carolina.
Now let's give a hand to the Baylor guards. All during the Big 12 season, the opposing coaches in the league would say, "It's not like Young and Blackmon aren't enough to drive you crazy. Then they've got those guards, too."
Monday, one guard in particular was as big a part of Baylor's victory as anyone -- 6-foot junior Chameka Scott. She was the only Baylor player who played all 40 minutes -- yet was also the only one who didn't have any of the team's 24 turnovers.
She was an anchor on defense, with four steals and two blocked shots. She also had nine rebounds. And she was Baylor's top threat from behind the arc, going 4-of-8 there and finishing with 18 points.
Scott does an online journal of sorts for Baylor, and it's no two-paragraph, ghost-written thing, either. It's long and thoughtful, worth checking out. She's a funny, articulate kid from Friendswood, Texas -- outside of Houston -- and one of Baylor's most outgoing personalities.
Scott tore her ACL as a senior in high school, and she has paid her dues and waited her turn at Baylor. She didn't start any games as a freshman and started eight last season.
Guard play hurt Baylor at the end of the Sweet 16 loss to Tennessee last year. Chelsea Whitaker fouled out of the game, Scott played just 14 minutes. Sure, everyone remembers the foul with two-tenths of a second left, but it's also important to recall that turnovers and offensive uncertainty caused Baylor to lose the lead that allowed the game to be decided in the final second.
Blackmon missed the NCAA Tournament last year with a knee injury. But with her and Young back, no one questioned Baylor's inside game coming into the season. What everyone waited to see was how consistent the guards could be.
Scott has started 33 of 34 games. She averages 7.8 points and 4.2 rebounds plus has 72 assists, 66 steals and 28 blocks. She and the senior Whitaker have solid backups, too, with sophomore Latoya Wyatt and freshman Angela Tisdale.
To beat North Carolina, Baylor needed everything it got from its marquee post game. But the guards were, as they have been all year, a very key part of Baylor's story.
And Scott, in particular, had the most important game of her career at the best possible time.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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