It may sound cliché, but all good things do come to an end. Facing elimination in the semi-finals last Saturday, we came out large and in charge – beating Vagos by 20 points. It was great getting back on track and evening up the series. The victory forced a game 3 to be played the following day (Sunday), with the winner punching a ticket to the finals.
Unfortunately, a win wasn’t in the cards for us. Maintaining a lead the entire game and up 8-points with 5 minutes remaining, we started to play scared and much too conservative. Unforced turnovers, stupid shots and lackadaisical defense allowed Vagos back in the game, as they evened the score at 54 with 30 seconds to play. Holding the last possession with 18 seconds on the clock and in the bonus, I knew if Casey or I got the ball in our hands we would win the game. However, neither of us touched the rock on the final possession and the set play for our guards didn’t allow us to get a shot up. Overtime. I got a bad feeling in my stomach when Vagos hit a 3 on their first possession. We traded baskets for most of 5 minutes, but sadly were one shot short when the final buzzer sounded. Heartbreaking and disappointing are words that come to mind. It was our game to lose and we did just that. I won’t be surprised if Olivais dispatches Vagos in 3 straight.
After somewhat getting the bitter taste of defeat out of my mouth, I find it hard to believe my life in Portugal is coming to a close. Six and a half months of hard work, aches and pains are over. Though not reaching the result I had hoped for, I find myself emotional at the thought of leaving this beautiful island Monday night. Normally at the end of a season, foreign players can’t wait to get home. Though I miss family and friends, I’m really sad to be leaving Madeira and all the great people I’ve developed relationships with here. I’ve met friends I hope to keep for life and can’t believe ‘the crew’ won’t be going out together for Karaoke night at Cup & Cino, hitting up the Irish bar for live music, eating at our 3 favorite restaurants, unwinding at the spa, laying out at the beach or dancing the night away at Copa Cabana and Klub Kool. It doesn’t seem real and it’s hard to see this chapter of my life come to a close. I’ve been fortunate in my overseas situations thus far, but can’t imagine the next stop being much better than this. I’ve found a friend for life in Casey, who I plan to keep in close touch with for a long time and became very close with the men’s players. Life goes on and people go their separate ways. That’s one of the hardest things about being a professional athlete abroad - knowing you probably won’t ever see the people you’ve developed close relationships again.
That being said, I thought I would share the highs and lows of my season spent in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal.
• Living on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where it was warm and sunny for almost all 6 months. During my time here, it probably rained a total of one week.
• Discovering Chinesas (Portuguese coffee with steamed milk) and thus my new love for coffee.
• The men’s team and the friendships I developed with both the American and Portuguese players. I’m going to especially miss spending time with Jason, Bobby, Lance and David.
• Cup & Cino Monday night Karaoke.
• The beautiful views I woke up to every morning. Wait, let me rephrase that – the beautiful views period. Madeira is gorgeous.
• Laying out on the sand lacking beaches (Madeira is a volcanic island – thus every beach is a rock beach).
• Fresh baked pastries and breads. These are dangerous, but you can’t help but have one…or two a day. From pastel de nadas to bolo de cacos – mouth-watering carbs could be found at any of the numerous cafes lining every street.
• Santa Cruz spa – where we basically got in for free any time we wanted.
• My Portuguese teammates. They’re really nice girls who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable in this foreign country. Also, Juca and Carlos – not only were they my coaches, but they became my friends.
• Um…Bongo – an amazing flavored juice that might actually rival Jussi Juice from Finland.
• Carrot soup – can’t say I’ve ever had it until arriving in Portugal. It quickly became a favorite!
• Stradivarius - pretty sure I spent a good chunk of my paycheck at this clothing store every month. Fashionable clothing with a great Eurostyle that I sadly won’t find at home.
• Moynihans Irish Bar - our go to hangout, where we’d often go just to get out of the house. We became close with 2 of the bartenders (one from South Africa, one from New Zealand) and will miss spending time with them every week.
• Kool Klub – the best dance club on the island that played live and classic American music.
• Placing second in the league while also giving league champions Olivais their only 2 losses of the season.
• The double-cheek hello/goodbye kiss.
• Fresh fruit and veggies from the farmers market.
• Cobblestone streets, historic buildings, old statues and timeless monuments.
• Casey Nash – a great person, teammate and friend. The things we’ve done, places we’ve seen and laughs we had are priceless. I truly hope this is a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
• Not being on the mainland, making travel to different countries/cities very difficult/costly.
• Losing a heartbreaker in the semi-finals, knowing we deserved to be in the championship.
• Not having a car on this extremely mountainous island. We walked almost everywhere as we often missed our buses by minutes.
• Boggling (a word we made up – basically hiking at an extremely slow pace b/c of the steep inclination) up our massive hill everyday 2+ times a day.
• The refereeing in Portugal.
• Smoking and smokers EVERYWHERE. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that British Columbia does not allow smoking in public places. Here I felt like I smoked a pack every time I went out.
• Sloooooow internet.
• Our practice slot from 9 -11pm every night. Ugh.
• Having extremely irritated achilles for most of the season. I’m convinced it was a result of all our steep hill walking. Surprisingly this past month the pain just disappeared. Weird, but great!
• Cockroaches and centipedes somehow always finding ways into our house.
• Stray cats and dogs everywhere! This is related to the dog poop we saw with every step we took. You really need to be on alert when walking anywhere outside of downtown.
• Living near Nazaré – a very shady area on the other side of our gym.
• The crazy lady and men in Nazaré who think they are our best friends. They also thought it was funny to yell sexual remarks at us.
• Seafood rice and mystery meat soup at the café. Not quite my fancy.
There isn’t much I can complain about during my stay on Madeira. I had the time of my life and will keep the memories I have with me forever. That being said, as the season comes to a close – so does my blog. I hope you have enjoyed reading it every week as much as I have enjoyed posting to it. The next time it will be updated is when I sign with a new team for the upcoming season in September. However, I’ll be sure to keep readers out there posted if anything else fabulous happens during my life from May through August. I’ve had a few requests for posts about Hoopfest, a 3 on 3 street ball tournament I play in every year at the end of June, so that’s also a possibility.
I appreciate any comments, suggestions or ideas at anytime. Feel free to contact me through the blog and I’ll try my best to get back to you. I love getting feedback. Thank you everyone for all your support this season!