BOWLING GREEN -- Anderson Arena will cease to exist as a basketball venue a month or so from now. Special ceremonies are scheduled for the final appearances by Bowling Green's basketball teams. They'll bring back some Falcon greats. It will be emotional. It will be touching.
But the real going-away party was last night.
They threw a barn-burner for the old barn.
It was Bowling Green-Toledo the way it's supposed to be, the joint filled to the brim, fans sitting in aisles, the thermostat on tilt.
The Rocket women won 66-65 and snapped BG's 23-game homecourt winning streak, the sixth longest in the nation. It was only the eighth time in three decades UT had won here.
"Yeah, we talked about that a little, I'm not going to lie," said Melissa Goodall, UT's senior forward. "Anytime you're retiring an arena that has caused so much grief in the past … we wanted to make one last good memory."
And memorable it was, both for and because of the 3,315 fans that had the venerable building rocking with an electric atmosphere. The majority of them went home disappointed, but nobody asked for their money back.
Toledo won because they were physical with the Falcons from the opening tip.
Freshman Andola Dortch keyed the defensive approach against BG's fine point guard Tracy Pontius, and kept the Falcons out of the fast break where they can be so deadly. Jessica Williams stuck to the sensational Lauren Prochaska like glue and kept her moving off a spot. Melissa Goodall, Lecretia Smith and Yolanda Richardson bodied-up inside, provided plenty of help, hit the boards, and limited BG's second-chance opportunities.
And we haven't even mentioned UT point guard Naama Shafir, who was simply the difference-maker on the floor from start to finish. The Rocket junior set the tone with drives to open both halves and scored 21 points.
"What makes Naama so fantastic is her change of pace, [the] change of direction on the dribble," said BG coach Curt Miller. "She's fast, but she changes speeds and is a nightmare to defend."
Still, the final score was one point. That's because BG, even in a nightmare, is like Dracula. Unless you drive the stake at the perfect angle the Falcons die hard.
Prochaska and Pontius were held to 11 and four points, half of their normal combined production. Pontius did not have a field goal all night, then nailed an off-balanced, 3-point bomb while almost falling into the BG bench with 21.3 seconds left to bring the Falcons within 63-62.
There weren't many folks in Anderson who didn't figure the Falcons were going to find a way to win after that because BG doesn't lose often anywhere, especially here in the friendly confines. But Goodall had a huge rebound of a missed free throw, was fouled, and punched in a pair from the line to restore a four-point edge. The Rockets held on from there to post a second regular-season win over BG in as many years.
"I told our kids to look at all the banners hanging up there; the pressure was all on them," said UT coach Tricia Cullop. "The recent history is BG owns the MAC. We'd like to change that."
We won't try to analyze whether anything changed last night. Goodall talked about how the Rockets beat BG a year ago at Savage Arena, too, but didn't get it done when they met again in the MAC tournament. Yes, there are a lot of banners here, a lot of memories, too.
Last night was a wild way to say goodbye.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.