A BAPTISM BY FIRE

December 30, 1996

Like any debut in sports these days, the first American
Basketball League game, between the New England Blizzard and the
Richmond Rage on Oct. 18 at the Hartford Civic Center, was
attended by scores of journalists, commemorated by stacks of
merchandise and punctuated by smoke, laser lights and
overamplified sound effects. But none of this '90s glitz sold
the crowd of 8,767 on women's basketball as much as the
old-fashioned grit of players such as New England point guard
Jennifer Rizzotti.

Less than two minutes into the game, Rizzotti, a former
Connecticut All-America known for going all-out for loose balls,
took an elbow above her right eye in a scramble for a rebound.
As blood gushed from the gash, Rizzotti headed for the locker
room in search of a Band-Aid. After reemerging in the second
quarter with seven stitches and a lumpy white bandage, she
sparked a 24-2 Blizzard run that led to a 100-73 victory.

"If you know me," said Rizzotti, who had eight points and five
assists, "there wasn't any doubt that I was coming back." On
opening night she showed the rest of the players in the
fledgling league the keys to long-running success: Keep
hustling, and be prepared to take a few knocks.

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Jennifer Rizzotti in game]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)