Kansas, down two, with the ball, 12 seconds left …
Shot from left of the free-throw line — clank, Missouri rebound — 10, 9, 8 …
Outlet pass, a Kansas player gets a hand on the ball — out of bounds! Ball in, Missouri —
“Foul! Foul!” Kansas fans yell.
Whoa! Time out! TO!
Not in the game, but in this story.
Breathe, sports fans.
Full disclosure: One of the Kansas players is 84, wearing bloomers and in the third quarter had a GoPro strapped to her forehead.
So, no, not MU-KU. But with those two institutions engaging in the polarity so prevalent in the country right now, it apparently has fallen to Granny Basketball League players such as the previously referenced Pat Conner, who attended KU in the early 1950s, to keep the border war going.
Thus, on Final Four weekend, a team from Jefferson City carried the pride of Missouri across the state line and into the belly of the beast, Lawrence, Kan.
And to think these women signed up for, according to a Granny Basketball press release, “a playful, fun-filled senior activity.”
Game time at Holcom Park Recreation Center: high noon. Turned into a nail-biter. A little jawing, the first foul called in the first minute, a couple of players hitting the deck.
This was official Granny League Basketball, a growing thing in seven states including Virginia, Texas and Minnesota. Vintage uniforms and 1923 rules, including a “flesh foul” if the bloomers hike up too far on the leg. Two dribbles per possession.
Running and jumping are not allowed, which, by the way, would seem to make it an ideal sport for 60-year-old men. We digress.
This story is about the Missouri Show Me Shooters taking on the Kansas Gray Tornadoes in a first-ever Granny Border War matchup.
“Time to put this thing to bed,” Missouri player Janet Lepper, a 1965 graduate of Eugene (Mo.) High School, said moments before tipoff.
She’s 4 feet 10 inches, plays center, and she says it’s time to put this thing to bed.
So, you’re thinking, does Grandma have moves? She’s good with a Thanksgiving turkey — how is she coming off a screen?
Maybe you’ll find out.
The official Granny Basketball League was started in 2005 by a woman who’d reread her father’s book, “Courting Girls: Reflections of an Iowa Six-on-Six Girls Basketball Coach.”
Tommy Tomlinson, who had coached girls basketball in the 1940s, wrote about seeing his first girls game in 1920 in Bondurant, Iowa.
The daughter, Barb Tomlinson-Trammell, ran with it by starting a league, right down to black bloomers, white shirts and middy collars, and today there are 200 players on about 25 teams. They play for charities.
Players must be at least 50. Some younger ones played ball in high school, but many predate Title IX, the federal mandate for girls’ and women’s sports.
Granny Ball is a new thing with really old rules.
Six-on-six. No running, but hurrying is allowed. No jumping. Two dribbles per possession. Granny shots — oh, yeah — count three points.
The court is marked off with painter’s tape for sections for guards, centers and forwards.
Kathleen Ramonda, 82, signed up at the get-go to play for the Kansas Grayhawkers. She grew up a farm girl in Wamego, Kan., well before Title IX, but managed to play a little basketball.
“I got a bum knee, but I can still play center,” she said at a game in February between two Kansas teams. “Don’t have to move much.”
She smiled: “They won’t let me take my cane out there.”
Teena Parduhn, who grew up in Wisconsin, said the high school she graduated from in 1973 told girls they could start a team if they could find a coach.
“So we did, and she didn’t know anything about basketball — she just sat there,” said Parduhn, who lives in Overland Park and plays for the Tornadoes. “First practice, we played horse.”
Well, it’s basketball now. Late in the February game between the Kansas teams, a player during a timeout said they needed to set picks to get open.
“They’re switching on the picks,” an out-of-breath teammate countered.
Larry Brumley and Rusty Johnston, two husbands running the clock in that game, said the women get surprisingly aggressive.
“My wife (Ruby) has fouled out a few times,” Brumley said.
Flesh fouls get called, too.
“Had a game not long ago that started with a flesh foul — before the clock even started,” Brumley said.
“Two,” Johnston corrected him. “One on each side.”
Last fall, Conner, of Lawrence, couldn’t get out of bed, dress herself or drive.
She didn’t take that well. She’d always been active. At KU, she put up 38 in an intramural game — most of those coming on a hook shot she fashioned after Clyde Lovellette’s.
She took a kinesiology class from Phog Allen and later became a PE teacher.
Not long ago, Conner saw a newspaper story about Granny Basketball starting in Lawrence and told herself she was going to get better and play.
“At 84, I wasn’t ready to slow down,” she said. “I believe I have some years left, and I’m going to live them to the fullest.”
Through medication and therapy, she improved. And when she shared her basketball plan with family, her doubting daughter, Deb Puga, said: “Really?”
But not only did Puga, who played basketball at Garden City Community College, cast worry aside, she agreed to play on her mother’s team.
At 57, she’s one of the younger players.
“I’m just so glad to be able to do this with my mom,” said Puga, who drives from Wichita for games. “She’s always been my inspiration. And it’s been such an amazing transformation — she’s still got that hook shot, and nobody goes easy on her.
“So, keep moving, people.”
The number on the back of Conner’s jersey: 38.
Just after 11 a.m. Saturday, an hour before tipoff, the first ball hit the hardwood inside Holcom Park.
Cindy Guthrie had the court to herself. She grew up in Memphis, Mo., graduated from high school in 1975 and played guard on a team that won district.
“We’re ready for ’em,” she said of the renewed border rivalry.
The other Missouri players say Guthrie talked most of them into joining the team. A lot of them work, or worked, at a state office building in Jefferson City.
At the other end of the court, Kansas player Michele Clark marked off the court with painter’s tape. She used to live in Missouri and started Granny teams there before moving to Lawrence and deciding that if any city were going to have Granny Basketball, it ought to be Lawrence.
So she organized the Kansas teams and Saturday’s game.
“I suppose we could call it a showdown, but we’re actually delighted they plan to show up,” Clark said.
Ooh. Delighted they plan to show up. That could be taken a couple of ways. How long ago did she move to Kansas?
Other players arrived soon. Both teams ran drills. Kansas players eyed the other end. They’d heard the Missouri bunch had a couple of 6-foot ringers.
High noon, the horn sounded.
“We’re as ready as 1923 players can be,” Parduhn said.
Parduhn hit the game’s first bucket. Then came a foul, followed by a disputed call on a ball out, and then an over-the-back call.
Missouri got rolling and led 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second, geez, some in the crowd started cheering missed free throws. By Grandma.
Guthrie landed hard. Then the refs discovered Missouri had seven players on the court. They checked to see whether scoring should be adjusted, gave up and shouted: “Don’t do that again!”
Michelle Carson hit a bucket at the buzzer to draw Kansas within five at the half: 23-18.
Early in the third, Ruby Brumley fell after committing a foul. She came off the floor, said something to her husband of 48 years about just being aggressive.
“Yeah,” Larry said. “Maybe a little too much.”
Missouri 32-24 after three.
In the fourth, here came Kansas.
Parduhn caught fire and got the Tornadoes back in it. She finished with 34 points. But she missed that one with 12 seconds on the clock.
Which gets us back to where we started.
And the winner is …
Missouri up two, ball in, five seconds left.
Jan Harbison catches it on the sideline in front of the Kansas bench — 5, 4 …
Harbison spots Joy Pearre at the top of the key. Pearre dribbles — 3, 2, 1, horn.
Kansas scored 18 in the fourth. They needed 20.
Pearre, from New Broomfield, led Missouri with 22, and Harbison added 18.
“Got a little too close at the end,” Guthrie said, smiling big. “But we did it for Missouri. It was on us.”
The final ticks may not have been quite as exciting as the NCAA Championship Game, but let’s see that Villanova guy hit a buzzer-beater in bloomers.
More disclosure: There were two more games Saturday at Holcom. In the first, two Kansas teams played each other.
Then the Kansas Grayhawkers beat the Missouri Show Me Shooters 42-26.
A win for each state. So contrary to what that 4-foot-10 Missouri center said, it doesn’t look like this thing’s put to bed yet.
A Kansas team travels to Jefferson City this fall.
Somebody’s got to do it. Besides, turns out these grandmas like one another.
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182