- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - The Hawaii team had volleyball All-American Tita Ahuna, former University of Hawaii basketball coach Dana Takahara-Dias, 1968 Olympian Bobbie Perry and Shelley Fey, former UH basketball player (and mom of UH volleyball standout Kupono Fey).

The other team was a bunch of grannies - actual grannies - from Iowa, the oldest of whom is 75.

Before the game even started, Hawaii was assessed a 9-point penalty for showing too much skin.

If you were sitting in the bleachers, you’d be thinking, “This is gonna be good fun.”

(It was.)

The Iowa Grannies Basketball League took on a team of Hawaii All-Stars on Jan. 10 at the St. Andrew’s Priory School for Girls gym. Hawaii has makule-league softball and senior master paddlers, but in the Midwest, where basketball is an obsession, the Granny League for women 50 and older has been growing in popularity. Founded in the early 2000s, the league now has 25 teams in seven states. The teams travel for tournaments, but this was their first trip to Hawaii. One of the players, 74-year-old Lori Neblung, is the mother of Saint Andrew’s Director of Athletics Missy Kilbey, who helped organize the game and recruit the Hawaii players.

The Granny League uses the rules of women’s basketball as played in the 1920s. The court is divided into three sections to minimize running. Only the forwards shoot. The game clock stops only for a timeout, a foul or a call of “Granny down!” when a player falls. “No running, no jumping, no contact,” Granny Basketball Executive Director Jane Suiter summarized.

The Grannies dress 1920s style, with voluminous bloomer shorts and long-sleeved sailor-style middy blouses with ties. The Hawaii team decided to forgo the bloomers for modern shorts. “I forgot my bloomers at home!” Ahuna joked. They took the penalty rather than wear poofy pants.

Beyond the prim uniform, the old-fashioned rules proved frustrating to the Hawaii team. Three of the players, including Ahuna, are not yet 50 years old, so had to play with one hand behind their back and shoot with the nondominant hand. All of the Hawaii players wanted to break and run, there were numerous contact fouls, and it was nearly impossible for them to keep from jumping when they took a shot.

“Don’t jump, Dana. Don’t jump. Easy, Takahara, easy,” announcer Hoku Haliniak said into the microphone. “You look good, though,” she said encouragingly.

Fey, who was planning to head to her son Kapono’s game at UH after the Granny game, said, “We are all very competitive. Soccer, volleyball, tennis . we all continue to play.”

By the start of the second quarter, the Iowa Grannies were leading 29-6, and the rules were amended: Everyone could play using two hands.

It didn’t take long for game announcer Haliniak to dub the Hawaii All-Star team “the Tutus.”

“Come on, Tutus! No running!” Haliniak reminded. “You look good, though,” she added.

In the second half all the Grannies moved to different positions, and the Tutus started to score. The fans (OK, it was pretty much just family members there, but still) kind of forgot that the players were “women of a certain age,” and it became all about the game. Takahara-Dias got into the flow of the novelty rules and started draining baskets with her feet firmly planted on the gym floor. Former Punahou Athletic Director Jeaney Garcia made herself stop running. Ahuna sank a shot and pointed proudly to her feet. She had not jumped.

Then all of a sudden, it was “Granny down.” Valaree Stodola of Shellsburg, Iowa, took a knock to the face and hit the floor. It was like a spell was broken and everyone in the gym remembered they were watching women over 50 play a sport that - despite the rules - had the potential of injury.

Stodola was helped by Tutu player Deborah Devine-Sherman, St. Andrew’s school nurse. There were some quiet, worried moments in the gym, but all it took was an ice pack and the Granny was OK.

The game belonged to 63-year old Gloria Wichmann from Williamsburg, Iowa, who put up 18 points for the Grannies and was such a powerhouse that Haliniak kept good-naturedly dogging her.

“Stop it, Gloria! Give us a chance, Gloria! It’s past your bedtime at home, Gloria. Take it easy.”

Wichmann just laughed and scored some more.

“You stop that, Gloria! You look good, though.”

“I hadn’t played since the eighth grade, but then my son played basketball in high school,” Wichmann said. “He and I would practice together, and he would coach me. He told me, ‘Never miss a free throw, because it’s free.’”

Wichmann, a farmer who has played Granny Basketball for the last eight years, jumped at the chance to come to Hawaii. All the Grannies paid their own way.

“I told my husband, ‘You go ahead and buy the stock cows for the farm. I’m going to Hawaii.’”

After four 8-minute quarters, the final score was 51-35. The visiting Grannies won.

Both teams posed together under the scoreboard for pictures.

(They looked good.)

___

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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