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Local Sports

February 26, 2013

Empire girl leaves lasting impression

Ada —      Three days ago, I didn’t have any idea who Alyssa George was. Now, I’ll never forget her.

Alyssa is a senior at Empire High School, and her Lady Bulldogs battled the Konawa Lady Tigers in a Class 2A Regional Tournament elimination contest Thursday afternoon at Wynnewood High School.

     I showed up way early for the event and got to watch the Empire girls go through warm-ups. I guessed right away the redhead (who I would later find out was Alyssa) was one of Empire’s top players. But I had no idea of the show I was about to see.

     Konawa won the game 61-53, but it was Alyssa that stole the show. The Empire post player finished the contest with 14 points and an eye-popping 27 rebounds. She was three rebounds shy of 30.

     Wow.

     The stat sheet I have been using for years to record basketball statistics only has room for 20 rebounds per player. That should be plenty. Not on this night.      When she recorded her 21st rebound, it momentarily threw me off my game. "Where the heck am I going to record this rebound?" I thought. I just simply created another stat line for her. And after the final horn had sounded, she had seven rebounds on that second line.

     Alyssa is no amazon. Let me clear that up right now. I guessed she stood somewhere around 5-10, 5-11. She later informed me that she was only around 5-9.

     Immediately after the game, I caught Alyssa before she even made it to the locker room. I rarely talk to players before their coach, but she was slow leaving the bench area, and I was excited to congratulate her.

     I introduced myself, gave her a big pat on the back and told her of her final stats. The emotion of the moment was overwhelming to George. As a senior, she wanted to keep playing. But you could tell that it was beginning to sink in that she ended her career in style.

     There isn’t a player on the Empire roster that wanted to beat Konawa any worse than she did. But you could tell she was happy to hear about her big statistical game.

     “That’s my season high. That’s probably my career-high,” she said. I assured her it was definitely her career-high. Alyssa later confirmed that her previous best was 19.

     “Thank you so much,” she said. No, thank you, Alyssa.

     Even though I always want to see the local teams I cover be successful — and last Thursday was no different — when I noticed that Alyssa was on the verge of something special, I was hoping she would pull down every rebound late in the game. And she basically did.

     Konawa girls coach Gordan Garner had told his squad that it was key to keep Alyssa and her teammates off the boards as much as possible. Epic fail.

     “We actually thought she was their most physical player and their best player inside,” Garner said in a post-game interview after finding out Alyssa’s rebounding numbers. “We went into the game knowing we had to keep her off the boards, and obviously we didn’t do it. That’s probably the most rebounds I’ve ever heard of. Twenty-seven rebounds, that is a bunch for sure. Wow.”

     I took a poll of some of my sports-writing colleagues I’ve met over the years. Not a single one remembers getting to watch a high school player — especially a female high school player — record 27 rebounds in a single game.

     Ryan Aber of Daily Oklahoman fame said he saw David Haynes of Boynton grab 22 rebounds.

     Murray Evans, who spent time working for the Daily Oklahoman and Associated Press, remembers Dennis Rodman yanking down 31 rebounds in his final game at Southeastern.

     “But I can't recall ever seeing or hearing about any high school player with that many,” he said.

     Brent Lansden, who worked for newspapers in Elk City and Beaver, said he hasn’t seen the likes.

     “I have covered a lot of basketball, from Class A to 4A, and have never witnessed such a feat. Wow!!,” he said.

     Michael Swisher of CoachesAid recalls Blake Griffin getting 20-something in a game vs. McGuinness back in his playing days at Oklahoma Christian School.

     “But for a girl, that’s amazing,” he said.

     John Hoover of the Tulsa World (and former sports editor of The Ada Evening News WAY back in the day) also mentioned Rodman and former University of Oklahoma great Courtney Paris.

“But I don't recall seeing it in high school, boy or girl. Impressive,” Hoover stated.

     Beau Simmons, who spend years at the Durant Daily Democrat said he’s never seen more that 20. John Yates, who has spent years covering McAlester High School sports, said, “I never recall seeing such.”

     Former Byng boys basketball coach Alan Simpson said he remembers his son, Zac, grabbing 19 rebounds in a game, and a player in Hugo had 20 during Simpson’s time there. But 27, no way.

      I’ve talked to several local coaches — such as Ada’s Christie Jennings and Ron Anderson, Stonewall’s Brian Davis. None have heard of or seen such a feat.

     Heck, even coworker Art Lawler, who has been around the newspaper business almost as long as the wheel has existed, said he can’t recall a high school player with 27 rebounds in a game. Lawler was sports editor at three different newspapers covering around 11 years.

     I tried to found out the state records for rebounds in a game by a high school girl player and had no luck.

     I can tell you these facts:

     • Rodman, the massive rebounder from Southeastern, had 31.

     • Paris holds the record for the University of Oklahoma women with 26 rebounds against Baylor in March of 2006.

     • Tamika Wyatt is tops for the East Central University women with 26 against Northwestern in 1996.

     • Gerald Long had 24 rebounds for the ECU men in 1984.

     • Add the great Blake Griffin, who grabs rebounds for the Los Angeles Clippers these days, had 20-something rebound in one of his high school outing.

     I guess that puts Alyssa in pretty good company.

     And while I’m sure she would trade in some of those rebounds right now to continue playing in the postseason, state record or not, she has quite the tale to tell from now on.

     I’m just thankful to have been able to see and record the performance.

     Congratulations, Alyssa. You now have at least one fan in Pontotoc County.

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