Sunday, December 14, 2014

Visit from NSU gives former Lady Demon Ortega reason to reminisce

When the Northwestern State Lady Demons visited Austin during the 2013-14 season, Angela Ortega wore purple to see her alma mater play.

Ortega wasn't clad in purple mid-day Sunday at the Erwin Center -- for good reason. Much like the vanity license plates making the rounds, Ortega, in her third season as the assistant athletic director for basketball operations at Texas, was in a divided mood before the game.

"Somebody asked me this morning how I felt about it," said Ortega, who helped lead the Lady Demons to the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history in 1989. "Today is a heart divided ay for me. Obviously, I'm with Texas, but I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Northwestern, for the opportunity I was given there. I'm so proud of Scott and Brooke (Stoehr) and everything they've done. Seeing them a year ago and then following them throughout the year and watching them win the Southland Conference Tournament, I couldn't be more proud."

A shooting guard in her career with the Lady Demons, Ortega gave the Stoehrs an assist, helping them to identify current assistant coach Kasondra Foreman, who played for Ortega during her time at North Texas.

Ortega joked about not having a lot of purple left in her closet these days. However, she sees a lot of the same characteristics in the Stoehrs' Lady Demons as there were in she and her teammates, despite a fair share of differences.

"Northwestern doesn't run as much as they used to, but you have to play according to your personnel," Ortega said. "I think (Janelle) Perez is a fantastic point guard. The first time I saw her play, even last year, she stunned us. She came in here and hit the backdoor cuts and was getting to the rim. She's a big key to their success."

Ortega and her teammates used their play on the court to leave a lasting legacy on the Lady Demons program.

Another part of Ortega lives on every summer. Although she deferred credit -- and the origins of the statement are debated -- Ortega has been credited with offering the statement that defines the Lady Demons' summer golf fund-raiser, the Don't Die Wondering Classic.

The scramble golf tournament turns 27 in August and has become synonymous with the Lady Demons program.

"I'm excited," Ortega said. "I'm glad they're able to take something and turn it into something that raises money for the program. Anything that's going to give back to Northwestern and help them, I'm all for it."

Monday, November 24, 2014

From Natchitoches to Cooperstown?

Welcome back to the Daily Demon blog. We are resurrecting our quaint little corner of the Internet after a too-long absence.

And we will do so with a post that initially may seem not too timely. Then again, neither were Lee Smith's sojourns from Major League Baseball bullpens to the mound.

Those here in Natchitoches remember Smith as a member of the Demons basketball team. The rest of the American sporting populace likely recall Smith as a leisurely strolling, hard-throwing closer for the Chicago Cubs and a number of other teams.

So why with baseball season a good four-plus months away from starting in earnest are we restarting this blog with a baseball-themed post?

It is because Smith is still on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, the 2015 version of which was released Monday by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Last year, Smith earned 29.9 percent of the vote. A minimum of 75 percent is required for election to the Hall.

In my former career as a sports writer, I had the chance to write a few stories detailing Smith's potential for election.

One national baseball writer compared Smith's current Hall track to that of Bert Blyleven, who made it into the Hall in his last year of eligibility on the writers' ballot.

Although it appears Smith's chances at reaching the quaint upstate New York hamlet of Cooperstown may seem slight, his numbers scream worthiness in my eyes.

Smith retired as the all-time saves leader -- a mark now held by Mariano Rivera. Anyone doubt Rivera's Cooperstown credentials?

The release of Michael Lewis' Moneyball made analytics a popular tool of the baseball trade more then a decade ago.

Four closers are in the Hall of Fame. Exactly one posted a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Smith's 2.57-to-1 -- Rollie Fingers.

Smith is not likely to be invited to Cooperstown this July, but he already resides in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame here in Natchitoches.

Time spent listening to Smith's tales of the interactions between members of the 1980s Cubs would fill the 1,494-mile drive from Natchitoches to Cooperstown. Those I was privileged enough to hear would fill a reporter's notebook and a baseball fan's soul.

There may not be a Hall of Fame for such storytellers, but, if there were, Lee Arthur Smith would be in there on the first ballot.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Will to Win

I made the comment twice during Wednesday's broadcast of the Lady Demons' thrilling, overtime win at Central Arkansas, and I will make it here.
I have never seen a team--and a head coach--that wanted to win a game more.
From start to finish, NSU was focused, determined, and "all-in". From the first timeout, Head Coach Jennifer Graf's face was red as can be. She wasn't mad--she was intense. And from my vantage point close behind the Lady Demons' bench, every player was tuned in--hanging on every word she had to say.
The result? A win against a good team, at a place where that good team doesn't lose very often. Wednesday's effort--and result--emphasizes what has been obvious most of the year. NSU has the talent to be a very good team. Maybe--hopefully--it has just taken a little longer than everyone would like for that talent to come together.
Saturday, the second half of the Southland Conference season begins. NSU will take a 4-4 league record--and a two-game winning streak-- into a 2pm home game against winless Texas A&M Corpus Christi. It will be one of just two Prather Coliseum appearances for the Lady Demons in February. I hope to see you at the game, but if not, I hope you will listen on 100.7 KZBL and the Demon Sports Network, or
See you on the radio!
Tony Taglavore
Voice of the Lady Demons

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Headin' West

The Southland Conference schedule makes for visits to quaint places like Huntsville, Texas and Thibodaux, Louisiana.
But Wednesday night, the Lady Demons will pay a visit to one the league's marquee cities--San Antonio.
Here's hoping NSU will bounce back from their first SLC loss--last Saturday's home defeat against Central Arkansas. The Lady Demons could very well be 3-0 going to the Alamo city. NSU led UCA by six at the half. Unfortunately, runs of 15-0 and 12-0 propelled the Sugar Bears to a come-from-behind win.
16 games into the season, a star is emerging for the purple and white. Jordi James has taken over as the Lady Demons' leading scorer. Before a recent game, I told Jordi I enjoyed watching her play, and I meant it. She can hit the jumper, but is not afraid to--and almost plays like she would rather--take it inside. I also like her attitude on the court. She, like others, plays with a purpose--the purpose of winning.
Wednesday's game at UTSA could catapult NSU to big things. The Lady Demons come back home Saturday for the first of three straight at Prather Coliseum. Who knows? If things break just right, NSU could be 6-1 going into February.
But, as head coach Jennifer Graf likes to say, one game at a time.
The team headed to San Antonio Tuesday morning. I will bring up the rear and arrive Wednesdsay afternoon. I invite you to tune in for all the action Wednesday night on 100.7 KZBL in Natchitoches, 92.1 KSYR in Shreveport, and around the world at The pre-game show comes your way at 6:45--tip-off is set for 7pm.
See you on the radio!

Tony Taglavore
Voice of the Lady Demons

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2-0...and Counting?

Well, well, well.
Look who is 2-0 in the Southland Conference--your Northwestern Lady Demons!
Yes, I realize there are two months of basketball remaining.
Yes, I realize the conference office doesn't hand out trophies for winning your first two league games.
And yes, I realize winning your first two conference games is a HUGE confidence-builder for a team that has struggled at times when it comes to building confidence.
Wednesday night, NSU ventured into deep South Louisiana for their first league road game of the season. The Lady Demons shot 51 percent from the field in the first half, and led by as many as 16 in the second half. But someone left the doors open at NSU's end of Stopher Gym. The Lady Demons went cold, going more than nine minutes without a field goal.
And that's what makes NSU's victory so impressive. Despite that drought--one which allowed Nicholls to tie the game--the Lady Demons refused to lose. Freshman Jasmine Bradley, who is hardly playing like a freshman right now, came up with two HUGE offensive rebounds late in the game, AND gave her body for the team by taking a charge in the final minute. And when Ronnika Drake rebounded a Nicholls missed three-pointer and dribbled out the clock, the Lady Demons had survived.
And in conference play, there is a lot to be said for survival. Especially on the road.
NSU returns home for a 2pm game Saturday against Central Arkansas. Admittedly, I am biased. However, I sense something very positive starting to build. A 3-0 league start would raise this team's confidence level even higher. I hope you will come out and support a team that, I promise, will feed off your energy. Of course, if you just can't make it to Prather Coliseum, tune in to 95.7 KDBH in Natchitoches, and around the world at for all the action.
And will someone make sure the coliseum doors are closed--at least on NSU's end?

Tony Taglavore
Voice of the Lady Demons