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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mystery of Kristal Stahl solved

Posted Tuesday, August 11, 2009, at 2:19 PM

Former Worthington High School standout Kristal Stahl wore No. 33 for the Lady Ramblers and as well at Washington State University. Stahl, the daughter of Gordon and Pearl Stahl, is shown during her playing days at Washington State University. (Submitted photo).
For the better part of the summer, I was trying to solve a mystery. It wasn't big, or even deep and dark, as far as unsolved mysteries go.

It was just another one of life's unanswered questions that you can't get out of your head, like when you try to come up with the name of a movie or song but draw a blank despite swearing you'll know it when you hear it or see it.

But this wasn't something I knew, but no one else seemed to know it either. How many career points did Kristal Stahl score at Worthington-Jefferson High School?

In my course of trying to have a list of area all-time career scoring leaders in girls basketball, that question kept bugging me.

The 1988 Indiana All-Star and Washington State University standout certainly had to have scored at least 1,000 points in her prep career, I reasoned. Any list of area players that I had would put together would not be complete without her totals.

The 5-11 forward, averaged 20-plus points per game in each of her final three seasons (this much I found), but no where I looked could I find the answer to one of the first questions I would have asked.

She wasn't on the Indiana High School Athletic Association's all-time list, which includes girls that scored 1,401 points or more.

IHSAA Sports Information Director Jason Wille discovered that Stahl played in 19 games in 1987-88, scoring 440 points for an average of 23.1. It also stated she had a high game of 34 points, which I discovered was part of a 55-50 victory over Brown County on Nov. 17, 1987. She had 15 field goals, made 4 of 5 free throws and grabbed 15 rebounds.

In my search of the Bloomfield Evening World and Linton Daily Citizen, papers which merged and is now called the Greene County Daily World, I never once read what was Stahl's finally tally.

Sometimes there would be a missing issue or it would list her season average, which also included over 12 rebounds while shooting over 50 percent and 75 percent from the foul line as a senior, but never anything about her career totals or when she went over 1,000.

I did find that Stahl started 68 consecutive games at Worthington-Jefferson High School and that she had season averages of 12.6, 20.7, 22.7 and 23.9 in each of her four seasons. That senior average is slightly higher than what the IHSAA listed, when the Lady Ramblers won 14 of 19 games.

After the total of 68 games came to light, I tried to find out how many games she played per season but drew a blank on her first three seasons, never finding a preseason story that included a schedule in lieu of season totals.

Thinking I would never find the answer, I am came up with an approximate total when multiplying each season average by 17-16-16 (an arbitrary way to divide 49 by three). After breaking out my trusty calculator, my grand total was 1,397. There will be a quiz later.

But I was still searching for a definitive answer, I thought that her parents probably still lived locally and decided to start calling every Stahl in the local phone book. One thing led to another and one call resulted in a lead -- Gordon and Pearl Stahl now lived in Martinsville they said.

Well it turned out to be the right county -- Morgan -- but the wrong town. The Stahls live in Mooresville I found and got in touch with them thanks to www.whitepages.com.

Pearl informed me in our lengthy and pleasant conversion that she had given her daughter, now Kristal Fiser, all of the memorabilia about her career.

In the mean time, I solicited Bob Adams, an Indiana High School Basketball historian. But neither Adams, nor a friend of his that has access to Indiana All-Star information, could find Kristal Stahl on any state career scoring list.

I thought it could have been listed in her freshman bio at Washington State. Assistant Director of Athletic Media Joe Nickell was very kind and helpful, providing stats that Kristal had compiled during her WSU career, as well as photos. But no where in her bio did it have that elusive number point total.

I finally spoke with Kristal, who said she had no idea what that number would be, but had the boxes of stuff her parents collected over the years.

Kristal Fiser, who is happily living in Washington with her husband Steve and sons Kambel, 6, and Kolt, 2 and working as a sales manager for UPS, was perplexed about why someone would care so much about something that happened over 20 years ago.

Kristal has put that part of his life behind her, but she said she would dig into her past and see if she could come up with anything for me.

The process was delayed when I was on vacation but couldn't get it out of my head. After coming back to work, I went to Bloomington to research back issues of the Herald-Times.

But I was never able to come up with an answer during my search of the 1987-88 season and stories leading up to the All-Star game.

I also solicited the help of Jean Peacock, who in 1988 was the girls athletic director and coached girls sports until Worthington-Jefferson consolidated into White River Valley High School after the 1990 school year.

She said she would try to find old scorebooks she thought existed somewhere, but I have not heard from her since our original conversation.

Finally after literally giving up on solving the puzzle, Kristal called me back, and believe it or not she had the answer -- 1,372 points. This according to an article in the Bloomington paper when she was named their player of the year. I must have missed it, or could it have been one of those mysterious issues not available on microfilm. I would like to think the latter.

She said that she averaged 20.2 points per game for her career, according to the article.

"It didn't really take me long to find it," said Kristal. "After less than 15 minutes of searching, I came across it."

But that was not the end of questions that I had. I wondered how Stahl ended up at Washington State, some 1,600-plus miles from Worthington.

Pearl was the first one to tell me how it transpired and Kristal later filled in the details.

Kristal had played on an AAU team out of Westfield after her junior season. They finished fourth in the state and Stahl was then picked up as a wildcard on the state championship team that went to the National Tournament in New Mexico.

In one of her brief appearances as a reserve, WSU assistant coach Sandy Simpson caught a glimpse of Stahl, and the rest is history.

"Obviously it has been a long time ago, but I remember Kristal very vividly," said Simpson, who is now the head coach of the women's program at the University of California at Davis (UC Davis). "I was the recruiting coordinator at the time at Washington State.

"I kind of compared her to Larry Bird. She wasn't going to overwhelm you with her athletic ability, but she had a great feel for the game. She had this great sense of angles at both ends of the court. This allowed her to get to spots that she might not of otherwise. And she had this automatic mid-range jump shot out to about 18 feet."

Simpson said that he was surprised that he convinced Stahl to come to WSU.

"Recruiting was different in those days," said Simpson. "I remember visiting her at her home.

"From the beginning, I just felt like she was a great kid and had a great home life. I just loved Gordon and Pearl. I was thrilled that she made the decision to come to Washington State. I know it must have been a tough to decide to go that far from home."

Stahl made an immediate impact with the Lady Cougars, much like she did in Greene County. She started 25 games and played in all 28 as WSU went 17-11, 9-9 in the Pac-10. The year before, the Lady Cougars were 10-18, 2-16.

"Kristal was part of a group of players that were responsible for revitalizing the program," said Simpson. "There also was Darla Williamson, Kristen Metson and Angie Weir.

"We won two conference games the year before Kristal came out to the WSU. And a lot of times, we were getting beat by 30 points or more. We were not even competitive. But that group of players, including Kristal, really changed things."

Kristal was a low-post player in high school, but easily made the transition to play small forward in college.

She scored in double figures in 16 of her first 17 games. She averaged 14.4 points and 6.0 rebounds, earning a spot on the Pac-10 All-Freshmen team. She was 12th in the league in scoring and was the team leader and fourth in the conference in 3-pointers (42).

"She really could shoot the 3-ball too," Simpson said of Stahl.

Kristal, who led the team in minutes played (almost 34 per game) scored a career high 27 points against Baylor on the road in Waco, Texas in January 1989.

As a sophomore, Stahl again started 25 of 28 games. She hit for 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. She scored in double figures in 11 games and had two double-doubles, including 26 points and 10 rebounds against Arizona State.

But the girl who had never missed a game in her prep career, started experiencing pain in her hip as early as her freshmen season. It got so bad that they operated on it after her sophomore year.

"I started to feel some numbness," she said. "I had some pain, but it was not excruciating or constant, but it was a little bothersome.

"It gradually got worse during my sophomore season. I had a pinched nerve in the front and back. They could not fix it where I could play basketball, but they did where I could function like everybody else."

Stahl saw limited action as a junior, playing the first six games. She was unable to suit up for the final 23 games and had played one game over the NCAA's limit and could not redshirt.

Stahl, who received her Bachelor's Degree from Washington State and got her Master's Degree from the University of Seattle, left WSU as 15th on the career scoring list (703 points), third in 3-pointers (68) and fourth in 3-point percentage (.316) despite only playing one healthy season.

"I would not have been able to play, even if I could have redshirted," said Kristal, who said her dad used to drive her to AAU games all over the state after church on Sundays. "It was just one of those things.

"They thought the injury might have started when I fell on it at some point in my career. But it was not one particular thing that caused it."

Stahl, who stated that she started playing basketball in the third grade and that she just clicked with the sport she could play for hours and not notice time go by, was never fortunate enough to play on a sectional title team at Worthinton-Jefferson. They had to go through coach Rick Marshall's teams at North Knox.

She said being an Indiana All-Star some 21 years ago was the highlight of her prep career, which included 10 games of 30 points or more including a career-high of 37 points. She added that something was lost during the notification process.

"I was on the pre-All-State team and was invited to the Top 40 workout," said Kristal, who added that she occasionally has to slow down because she can overdue her old injury. "On the Saturday night before the official announcement, we never received a call. At that point, I didn't think it was going to happen.

"Dad woke up the next morning and went to town and got a newspaper and it was in there. I talked to some of the other players later and they all got phone calls. I don't know what happened. I was just glad to have the opportunity."

Kristal, who said she had to thank her parents for the role they played in all the success she has achieved on and off the court, is not the kind of person to look back, but did wonder when asked about how things might have turned out differently if she wouldn't have gotten hurt.

"Sure, I have thought about it," she said. "Women's professional basketball was just starting. I could have possibly went and played overseas.

"But I had my time and I loved playing. Things did not work out that way, but I did not dwell on it. I am very happy with my family and the life I have. I met my husband at Washington State and we decided to stay out here."

When I asked Kristal about the irony of Simpson watching her in that AAU tournament in the summer of 1987, she pointed out another simple twist of fate, as Bob Dylan penned.

"Early in my junior year (December 1986), dad and I went to watch the Hall of Fame Classic for boys and girls," she said. "We ended up sitting by the gentleman that coached the Westfield AAU team, the one I ended up playing for that summer.

"If I had not played on that team, I would not have been picked up and not been in that AAU tournament that Sandy watched."

Simpson said he has never forgotten Kristal or even Gordon and Pearl, who said that they had a heck of phone bill as they made numerous calls to Pullman, Wash. during Kristal's undergraduate days.

"When you are recruiting, you have to learn not to set your heights not too low and not too high," he said. "She was one of those players right in the middle and the kind you have to have to build a program.

"She was such a tough kid from such a great family. I still talk about her to my teams today. She is one of the top three or four best kids that I have ever coached. She was not only a good player and a good teammate, but she was the kind of kid that made her teammates better because of her work ethic and attitude."

Stahl, who said she occasionally plays basketball but usually pays for it the next couple of days, never averaged less than 12 rebounds per game in each of her final three season for the Lady Ramblers Worthington-Jefferson, including 14.2 as a junior.

Even though rebound numbers are next to impossible to find, you already know that I am wondering what her career caroms were. I guess solving one out of two mysteries isn't bad.

B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext 12 or at hargisbj@yahoo.com.

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