By the time Elle Tinkle checked into the game Sunday afternoon, her sister Joslyn had been on the floor for seven minutes and 21 sprints up and down the floor at McCarthey Athletic Center.
To big sis, a breather sounded good.
“Want to fake an injury with me?” Joslyn Tinkle asked.
“No, I can’t,” came the answer. “I just got in. You’ve been in. I want to stay in a little bit.”
At which point, they tied it up against each other, sis on sis, at least for a few possessions – the way it’s supposed to be when this unlikely sibling rendezvous actually come off in sports. Now, neither swatted the other’s shot into the seat or hammered the other with a hard foul, and nobody’s ankles got broken by a take-that crossover. If that was a little tame for anyone keeping a scorecard, well, these things are nerve-wracking enough for the family members involved.
The game? You had to ask, right?
Big sis’ team won, 69-41.
“Bragging rights,” Joslyn crowed, “for the rest of my life.”
There were lots of reasons to fill the seats inside on a sunny afternoon at Gonzaga, and Spokane did. Stanford, the nation’s top-ranked women’s basketball team was in town again, and the home team’s been doing OK, too. That any mystery had been pretty much been sucked out of the game by the second TV timeout – the Zags had missed 15 of 17 shots at that point – was a shame, but those are the risks in scheduling No. 1.
And when the show isn’t so good, sideshows are welcome.
So there was Sister Act.
That, too, was somewhat anticlimactic. Joslyn, the Stanford senior, had 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 36 sometimes over-eager minutes. Elle, the Gonzaga freshman, made just one of six shots, reflecting the frustration of her teammates.
But if it lacked for competitive tension, it didn’t lack for competitiveness.
“I noticed a few forearms,” said their father, Wayne. “There wasn’t going to be any giving the other a break.”
For what it’s worth, the sisters Tinkle embraced this moment as much as some siblings have downplayed such encounters as “just another game.” They didn’t make it more than what it was, but relished the good time to be had.
They grew up 200 miles east in Missoula, playing together on a state championship team four years ago. But Wayne Tinkle – who’s coached the men’s team at the University of Montana into the NCAA tournament two of the past three years – is a Ferris High School grad, class of 1984, and it was no big deal for extended family to fill a goodly number of rows behind the Stanford bench.
Yes, that’s where Wayne and Lisa Tinkle sat.
“They get to see my sister a lot more frequently than they see me,” Joslyn said, “so they were in the Stanford section.”
But they did make apparel concessions, Wayne in a shirt that read “Gonzford” and Lisa touting “Stanzaga.” Presumably, no collegiate licensing copyrights were violated in the making.
What Mom and Dad got was what Wayne called one of those “bucket list” moments. After being a good soldier with a steadily increasing impact for her first three years at Stanford, Joslyn is now a go-to force as a senior on a Top 10 perennial with, as coach Tara VanDerveer pointed out, “a lot invested in this team.”
Elle, meanwhile, has the look of an eventual difference maker in a Gonzaga program transitioning from a recent wave of exceptional players and unprecedented success into, well, whatever comes next.
Sure, Courtney Vandersloot was in the building Sunday. But as an alum giving her old coach the bet-you-miss-me-now cocked eye.
“We have three players on this team who played with her,” Graves noted, “and that was just two years ago. We have completely turned this thing over. We averaged 86 points a game then. I don’t think we’re capable of scoring that many in a game now. But you can see the ability there, and we’ll figure it out.”
They are certainly no less loved. Even in an awkward blowout, 95 percent of the 6,000 witnesses stayed until Elle Tinkle got on the scoresheet in the final 90 seconds.
“Such a good feeling,” said Joslyn. “Not only because it’s this family thing going on, playing my sister for the first time, but it’s always a great atmosphere when you come to Gonzaga. It’s always fun, and it’s great for women’s basketball.”
Well, maybe something less than great for Gonzaga this day, but there will be other opportunities as this series continues.
“And one of these days,” Graves said, “we’ll get those guys.”
Could be. After this, he’ll have the only Tinkle in the fight.