Funny how a lot of the real winners in sports these days won’t talk about it. For every Bode Miller boasting about his apres-ski exploits without shame and without medals, there is a Denver Broncos offensive line.

You know ’em. Well, no you don’t, because while their collective run blocking skills could spring your Great Uncle Chester to 1,200 yards in a 16-game season, the five horsemen haven’t done a real interview since John Elway was an underachiever.

And just try getting a meaningful sound bite from a member of the New England Patriots between July and February. Marcel Marceau is a better interview than anyone in the three-time world champions’ locker room.

It’s also possible to win a basketball championship without stooping to the rest of society’s desperate need for the last word. Or first word, for that matter. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the University of Southern Maine women’s basketball team, partially because I’m hoping you can get one of them to say something. Anything.

The Huskies are one of three teams lugging a lusty, one-loss record into the NCAA Division III Final Four. USM meets Hardin-Simmons of Texas at 4 p.m. Friday in the national semifinals at Blake Arena in Springfield, Mass. Win that game and it’s on the final for the third time in nine seasons at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Ranked No. 1 in both major D3 polls, the Huskies conduct most of their business as if they’re 201st, with nary a hint of bravado or self-promotion. Most of what we know about the Huskies we’ve learned not by listening but watching – watching them maul Maine Maritime, Norwich and Bridgewater and outlast Bowdoin through the first four rounds of the tournament.

Probably that’s the way it should be.

Leading the silent majority is All-American finalist Ashley Marble, who at 5-foot-9 and a buck and some change doesn’t look she should arm wrestle the other team’s backup point guard. So, naturally, she’s the center.

Asking Marble how she finds a way to pluck every loose ball from the meaty mitts of an opponent who’s a half-foot taller is met with such a disarming smile and shrug that you’d swear someone just asked her to divulge the secret formula for Coca-Cola.

Let me say what Marble can’t or won’t. She’s better than they are. She is pound-for-pound, putback-for-putback the best Division III player in the country, sneakers down.

Nice to have a second option as selfless and talented as Auburn’s Megan Myles, who appears to have overcome a lifetime of people pigeonholing her as either a guard or forward by sharpening skills that make her one of the best at both.

Those two typically give/receive startlingly open shots to/from Donna Cowing, Katie Sibley and Katie Frost. All three made the sometimes impossible transition from unquestioned star of their high school teams to unassuming collegiate role players who look sharper in color than the black-and-white of a scouting report.

They’re just winners. They don’t wow you with their quickness or physical stature. Or their words.

Seriously, the only seven minutes more uncomfortable than a USM opponent’s mid-game shooting slump are that same amount of time after the game, when three ink-stained wretches and a television cameraman try to goad the Huskies into talking shop.

Whoever is smart enough to claim the seat at the center of the interview-room table gets off the hook by sliding the tape recorders and microphones left or right after every question. And the electrical devices usually stop in front of coach Gary Fifield, who would have a right to keep a straight face if he accused Bill Belichick of wasting words.

To hear Fifield tell it, Southern Maine moves the ball crisply, takes intelligent shots, communicates well defensively and scores more points than the other team. Some of us ache for a deeper explanation, but maybe basketball really is that simple when it’s played properly.

It’s easier to like the Huskies than get to know them. Sure, maybe they’re cheese pizza. But they’re deep dish, Chicago-style, $5-a-slice cheese pizza.

Maybe they’re vanilla ice cream. But in a sports universe where talk trumps action at an alarming rate, we all should be lining up for seconds.

Southern Maine saves its eloquence for the court. Here’s a prediction that the Huskies will prove themselves the most articulate team in the country this weekend.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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