DETROIT—The woeful start to the Pistons’ season continued Thursday when dominant 4-foot, 9-inch center Shauna Thompson led the Thirkell Elementary School girls basketball team to an authoritative 88-72 victory over 1-8 Detroit.
The Pistons struggled all game long to answer the intimidating 84-pound fifth-grader, who forced her will upon the entire Detroit frontcourt to the tune of 54 points, 27 rebounds, and 14 blocked shots.
“Sometimes it’s simply a matter of having the best player on the court, and that’s exactly what that little girl was tonight,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank told reporters after the game, adding that double teams made little difference against the aggressive, ponytailed 10-year-old. “I tried to tell my guys to just keep their hands up, but she used those pointy elbows of hers to clear space and went up over the top of us on almost every play. Nothing you can do to stop that.”
Most of Thirkell Elementary’s offense ran strictly through Thompson and point guard Megan Rivers, whom the Pistons struggled to keep up with because the fifth-grader can dribble with both hands and doesn’t have to look down at the ball to do so. On almost every possession, Rivers lobbed a high pass under the basket where only Thompson could reach it, allowing the nearly 5-foot-tall center to catch the ball and put up a shot from less than 5 feet away.
In the case of a miss, Thompson easily grabbed the rebound and put up another shot two or three times until she either scored or drew a foul.
“It’s hard to deal with a girl like that, one who’s clearly hit her first growth spurt and owns the paint on both ends of the court,” Pistons center Greg Monroe said. “And for her size she has impressive ball-handling skills and a great ability to dish out assists. Between her well-executed bounce passes and chest passes, it was really difficult for us to force turnovers.”
The 10-year-old phenom, who played 40 of 48 minutes, only offered the Pistons one real opportunity to take advantage of her absence from the game, when she sat out for five minutes in the second quarter to drink a juice box. Aside from that, it was Detroit who found themselves shuffling players through the frontcourt in hopes of finding anybody who could defend the “very cute, but very mean” Thompson.
“I’m not going to comment on whether she was too rough with Jason [Maxiell] and Greg [Monroe]—that’s for the league to determine,” said Frank, specifically pointing to a play in the second half in which Thompson made a strong move to the basket and knocked Maxiell down hard to the floor, requiring the power forward to seek medical attention for a sprained wrist. “Ultimately, our guys are fine. They were mostly just a little frazzled. She played kind of rough out there, but in the end we need to be able to handle players like that.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Pistons, as NBA analysts predict the team will struggle over the next week while traveling to play against a 65-plus YMCA league team from Columbus, OH, a wheelchair basketball team in Tampa Bay, and the Toronto Raptors.