Season ends, ridicule doesn't for Griner
The perfect season ended with an imperfect moment.
Overcome with emotion after falling in Tuesday night’s championship game,
Given the recent controversy surrounding Internet and social media postings questioning Griner’s gender, the comment turned some attention away from the NCAA's first 40-0 season — by men or women.
But like every double- and triple-team during the tournament, the
“I take it as a compliment,” she said.
McGraw released a statement soon after the comment. “I would hope that it was clear to those in attendance at Tuesday’s press conference that my comments were meant to be complimentary,” it said. “Any attempt by others to read anything more into that comment is wrong [and] malicious.”
With a 26-point, 13-rebound, five-block performance in an 80-61 victory over
But this year, she got help from Odyssey Sims, the 5-foot-9 guard, who despite being 11 inches shorter than her heralded teammate, didn't stand in Griner’s very long shadow.
It was the sophomore sensation’s strong play that gave Griner and the Lady Bears the leadership and grit they needed.
“Especially being a point guard, [Coach Kim Mulkey] has been the hardest on [Sims]. It’s her position,” sophomore Makenzie Robertson said. “She’s taken it and run with it. She’s been in control all year.”
“Odyssey Sims didn’t play well at all,” Mulkey said, referring to that game. “She will be the first one to tell you. . . . The talent was there a year ago. But she’s more experienced. She has really grown.”
Teammates took notice too. “She took care of the ball more this year,” senior Terran Condrey said. “She had more control of the game and better leadership.”
On Tuesday, Sims was
“I’ve been getting hit by trains all year. And when I get hit, I just pop back up. I didn't know I was going to a hit a 3,” Sims said. “But I tried to get back into the play as quick as possible and not give up on my team.”
It’s the kind of toughness she learned when her mother, Pamela Thompson, placed her on a boys team in Irving, Texas. Years later, Sims forced opponents to divide some of the attention commanded by Griner, the 6-8 force of nature in the paint.
“We’ll throw different things at Brittney . . . but Odyssey is what makes them go,”
The strategy didn't completely work. Despite missing all four of her 3s in the first half, Sims kept shooting, while her feisty defense produced two steals. She’s so competitive that when she arrived back at the
“To come out here and win, and make history at that, is a great feeling,” Sims said.
Both the point guard and Griner will return next year, despite repeated questions asked about the center leaving. But they're living in the moment.
“When the season comes next year, we’ll start thinking about that,” Griner said. “Right now, it’s just celebrating.”