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Friday, May 23, 1997

Geron trying different field after retirement

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Staff Writer
PECOS, May 23 -- What's next for Pecos Eagles' coach Nora Geron?

Gardening, she says.

"I'm going to go home and take care of my garden. I never have had time
to do that in the past," Geron said Wednesday, as she nears her final
week before retirement. But she added she's already got other summer
work to keep her busy.

"I'm already working at three camps this summer," she said, adding that
here in Pecos, "I'm working JTPA (student job training) right now. I'll
be doing that until the middle of July."

Geron officially turned in her resignation as Pecos Eagles' volleyball
coach last week, after 17 seasons that included six district titles, and
11 playoff appearances, capped by the 1987 state championship team that
went 34-0, the last Class 4A team to go through a season undefeated.

Pecos also ran off 76 consecutive victories in district play between
1985 and 1991, when their streak was ended by Monahans, coached by
Geron's daughter, Val Hernandez. The Eagles took back the district title
the following year, but missed the playoffs three straight times until
this past fall, when they advanced to the second round of the Class 4A
playoffs. A bi-district victory over El Paso Burges turned out to be
Geron's 618th and final victory.

She said she has seen several of her former players in the weeks leading
up to her retirement. "I had one in here yesterday (Anna Ozuna) I hadn't
seen in 10 years since we shipped her off to Cook County (Junior
College). She played volleyball at ALR (Arkansas-Little Rock) after
that, and now works for Southwest Airlines in Little Rock."

Geron listed Ozuna's 1986 team as one of her favorites in her 17 years
with the Eagles. "That was the first one to win a district title, and
they won it by going undefeated in district," she said. A controversial
regional finals loss to then-district rival Lamesa allowed the Tornadoes
to take the Class 4A championship, but the Eagles came back the
following team to beat Lamesa at regionals on the way to their 34-0
championship year.

Geron also listed the 1982 team, "Renee (Shorter)'s bunch that got to
the regional finals the third year I was here. That was the first year
we got to the playoffs."

The Eagles handed Monahans their only loss that season, but fell to the
Loboettes in the Region I-4A title game.

"I think all those groups played up to their potential, It's just that
we had so much more talent on the 1987 team," Geron said. Led by senior
hitter Lisa Mierhoff, the Eagles were taken to three games only four
times during the entire season, and placed Mierhoff, Yvonne Acosta,
Norma Matta and Pam Juarez on the all-state team in Austin.

That team also featured freshman hitter Sophia Terry, who Geron said was
"the best athlete that I coached in terms of natural ability in my whole

"There are three that stand out in my mind, but Sophia is the only
natural one. The others made themselves," she said, citing Nancy Bell
and Sherry Kough, who Geron coached in volleyball and basketball at
Fabens and in Florida during her first 20 years before moving to Pecos
in 1980.

The Eagles were 58-0 in district during Terry's four seasons on the
varsity, but Proposition 48 problems kept her from going to Arizona on a
volleyball scholarship. "I don't think Sophia ever realized how good she
was. She always wanted to learn more, and that made her better."

For most fans looking back now, her most impressive game might have been
an early season matchup against Brownfield in 1989, where Terry and her
Eagle teammates dominated Sheryl Swoopes, despite a five inch height

"She was scared of Swoopes, but I told her there was no way she could
block you, and once she got that first ball past her she went to town.
If she realized how good she was, she wouldn't have feared anybody."

Even with Terry, the Eagles lost three straight times to Dumas, though
Geron said an ankle sprain that she suffered in the playoffs her
sophomore year did make a difference.

"On that `88 team, if she hadn't busted her ankle, we would have gone to
Austin. The other two years (1989-90) we just didn't have enough
talent," Geron said. "On the '88 team we had Pam, Norma and Yvonne, who
pushed everybody to the limit. Renee Shorter was like that on our '82
team, but we haven't had anybody like that for a long time."

Pecos also didn't have much height in recent years, though that
situation improved last season. But the Eagles were able to make the
playoffs in 1984 and win their last district title in 1992 despite that

"That team (1984) didn't have any natural talent, but they just played
above their heads," Geron said. "It was just like Monica (Navarette)'s
year. When you've got a team with a 5-foot-3 middle hitter that leads
you to a district title, that says a lot about the team."

Navarette was district MVP in 1992, while the 1984 Eagles, led by 5-4
hitter Rosario Mata, the Eagles won a playoff for second over a Snyder
team that went on to win the state title the following season, when a
sprained ankle suffered by Kim Calhoun kept Pecos out of postseason play.

Monahans won the '`84 title, while Snyder also took the 4A championship
in Geron's first two seasons in Pecos.

"This area has always been predominantly volleyball. We played it even
when I was in high school in Alpine, but didn't play basketball," she
said. "I this district basketball didn't start until Patty (Hall, the
Eagles varsity girls' coach and Geron's niece) was a seventh grader.

"That's why this area dominated the state titles for so many years. For
a long time just about anybody who came out of this district you could
guarantee would win state," Geron said.

But Pecos' 1987 win was the last title District 4-4A teams have earned,
after 17 over the previous 20 seasons. The Eagles lost the next three
years to Dumas, which went on to take the title, and since then
Panhandle teams have dominated Region I-4A.

Geron says the increased popularity of club volleyball has helped
schools in larger areas.

"Your metro area have got an advantage, and also your areas where
economics are better get an advantage. I know the (San Angelo) Lake View
kids have got a club team, and almost all their volleyball players don't
play basketball. That helps them, but it's not what I advocate.

"Club ball starts on December 1 and runs through July 30, so if you play
every Saturday during those months you're way ahead of everybody. But
that takes dollars, and it means the parents have to travel with those
kids," she said, later citing as an example one of her post-retirement
job offers.

"A couple of ladies in Odessa contacted me to see if we could get a hold
of a gym to give private lessons. They said they could round up enough
kids to make it worth my while," she said.

"Talking about private lessons is getting more and more like tennis and
golf. But we've got a lot of interest here. There are a lot of kids
playing in Pecos."

Pecos had a club team this spring, but Geron said they only managed to
get in two tournaments. "Competition-wise, they would have been better
off running track. They would have had more opportunities to compete."

Along with the `rural' disadvantage, Geron said the Eagles "really
haven't had any real tough players the last few years. I think Lori
(Marquez) comes closest to being an Anna Ozuna or a Kim Calhoun than
anybody we've had in a long time. That's why we did so much better last
season. Plus we had a lot more talent that we've had in a while."

"It's going to be up to the kids. They're going to be picked to win
district, because we have more returning starters than anybody else, but
it's going to be up to them whether or not they want to work for it or

Bulls less awful than Heat in victory

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CHICAGO, May 23 (AP) --``Yuck!''

Steve Kerr's reaction pretty well summed up the lowest scoring playoff
game since the NBA went to the 24-second clock more than 40 years ago.

For the Chicago Bulls, ugly was OK. They won 75-68 -- that's right 75-68
-- for a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. For the Miami Heat,
it was another night of frustration, another chance missed.

Even when the Bulls played poorly, as they did Thursday night, the Heat
couldn't win. Miami is now 0-8 all-time against Chicago in the playoffs.

``There was no flow to the game the entire way,'' said Kerr, who spent
most of the game on the bench, giving him the same perspective as most
fans who watched sloppy basketball, tight physical defense and one
missed shot after another.

``The fans really ought to get their money back. I feel sorry for
them,'' Kerr offered. ``No question, the style of play the first two
games is kind of making everybody look bad.''

The series goes to Miami for Games 3 and 4 Saturday and Monday, and the
Heat are looking for a lift from their homecourt.

``If we can get the same kind of shots in Miami, I'll be satisfied. We
got a lot of real good looks. We cut it to one and had six or seven
opportunities, good shots, and just didn't make them. Both teams are
working real hard defensively,'' Miami coach Pat Riley said.

The Heat made only six second-half field goals in an 84-77 loss in the
opener. On Thursday night, they shot just 34 percent -- missing 23 of 26
attempts from 3-point range.

The Bulls hit just 36 percent for the second straight game, but still
managed to win in the final quarter as Michael Jordan -- only 4-of-15
from the field for the game -- made 10 straight free throws.

Chicago, shooting for its fifth title of the 90s, has now won nine
playoff games in 10 tries so far this year.

``We played ugly against Atlanta. We played ugly against Washington. It
isn't the competition. It's just us. Except for our defense. Our defense
has won games,'' said Jordan, who scored 23 points with 15 of them
coming at the free throw line.

``Our offense has kept people in the stands. Defense has been winning
championships for us in the past.''

The 143 combined points were two fewer than the previous postseason low
set by Syracuse and Fort Wayne in 1955, the first year of the 24-second

``I'm going to just sum it up for you: They have given us so many
opportunities to win, it's ridiculous,'' said Alonzo Mourning, who had
14 points for the Heat. ``And we just haven't taken advantage of it at

``But I'm not discouraged because I feel that we've been playing
relatively well at home.''

But Mourning was frustrated by Jordan's frequent visits to the line in
the closing minutes, especially after the tough defense played by Heat
guard Voshon Lenard.

``We're doing a great job on him the whole game and then, the fourth
quarter comes. ... I mean, come on, man. Goodness gracious,'' Mourning

``How many times did he go to the line in the last four minutes? It was
about ... a lot.''

Jordan admitted he played awful. And his assessment of his performance
and the one by Scottie Pippen, who also scored 23 was this:

``I'm doo-doo,'' Jordan said before adding Pippen's nickname that was
more vulgar. ``We can look in the mirror and say when we play bad. We
looked in the mirror ... and came up with these two names.''

Heat guard Tim Hardaway, meanwhile, has not played like a first-team
All-NBA selection in the first two games. Hardaway followed up a
4-for-14 opening-game performance with 5-of-16 as he continued to
struggle against Chicago's long-armed defenders Jordan, Ron Harper and

`` I was missing some easy layups. I think I did a pretty good job
shaking loose; I was just missing shots,'' Hardaway said.

Harper hit a key 3-pointer for the second straight game to give the
Bulls a 66-58 lead with just under four minutes left, and Jordan had
four free throws in the final 30 seconds.

Miami must now win four of five against the Bulls or go home for good.

The Heat rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat New York in the semifinals,
but only 12 teams have come back from 2-0 deficits. And Chicago has won
all eight times it has taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 series.

``I think they're going to feel much more comfortable on their
homecourt. They're a 3-point shooting team and they were 3-for-26. We're
going to have to be even better defensively. But our offense is often
better on the road,'' Bulls coach Phil Jackson said.

(Copyright 1997 by The Associated Press)

State and Regional Sports Pages--San Angelo Standard-Times

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