Sunday, March 8, 2009

March 7th, ASU and the PAC-10 Title

It is senior night, or rather senior day at Stanford for the women’s basketball team, and C and R arrive early to Maples. The temporary parking lot is already filled, and they have opened another dirt patch for us. Oh boy, we think, it will be a sell out for Stanford women, what with the PAC-10 title on the line and Jillian Harmon’s last home game.

C and R walk past the Stanford tennis stadium and see a tennis event is going on. A quick peek through the screens tell us the Stanford women are playing, yet there are only a handful of fans in the stands. Always disappointing, and what is up with the opposing team wearing skirts? Can you imagine the basketball team in skirts?

Maples is not sold out, either. We realize there is a baseball game going on and that is where all the occupants of the cars have headed. Again, disappointing, but by the time Jayne loses the tip off, the Pavilion is about three quarters full.

C and R sit down just in time for us to see the seniors for Arizona State get introduced and handed flowers from Tara. What? We thought they changed the senior ceremonies to after the game because R gets so teary-eyed. An announcement tells us to stay tuned for after the game when the Stanford seniors will be honored. Actually, we read that the powers-that-be decided the ceremony before the game got the seniors too emotional and moved it to after the game. Good, we haven’t missed anything. And, geez, C and R decide, we better win.

Pohlen hits a three for Stanford’s first points and the T-Shirt guy is really a girl, a very wimpy-throwing cheerleader. She even hands one to the front row on her side. C and R have no chance at a shirt.

Stanford shows more energy up and down the court, a big difference from Thursday’s game against Arizona. They are back to that slow offense again, and they look a little confused. One thing always works, though, is a feed to Jayne, and she looks less in knee pain and finds the basket.

Now, you know C and R love Arizona State’s coach, Charli Turner Thorne, because she is a former Stanford player under Tara VanDerveer. And we loved her quote in today’s Chronicle that said, “I’ve won at Stanford…when I was a player!” But those four inch heels! Get them off our court, and she kept walking on the court to jaw at the refs. C would have given her a technical ten times over.

Stanford is playing with intensity that was sorely lacking last game. We are especially energetic when Lindy comes in. They are being scrappy and chasing after loose balls and Pohlen takes it in to the basket hard and is knocked over but gets up fired up. This is the way Stanford has to play the rest of the post season and for the PAC-10 tournament, notes R. Stanford feeds it in to Jayne on a single team, and that will be open all day.

Jayne takes it inside to the basket and collides with an ASU player. The ref calls an offensive foul and the crowd boos, as it didn’t look like the ASU player had her feet set. The announcer announces a foul on Kayla. Kayla! The crowd boos some more and C yells, “Yes, give it to Kayla so Jayne can stay in the game! No wait, give it to Necka, she’s on the bench!” C likes to yell things.

Lindy is now guarding Dymond Simon (always loved that name), who is fast and powerful. Lindy keeps up with her. Such poise, and she is only a freshmen! Lindy blocks Simon and throws the ball down court to Pohlen who makes an athletic drive past two defenders to make the lay-up. The game stops as Simon had landed awkwardly and is still down. She is carried to the locker room.

R remarks she has never seen them play this way, with such intensity and purpose, even if C hates that they went back to the old offense. This is not the team we saw on Thursday, she remarks again. Jill dribbles under the basket and makes a reverse lay-up. Fancy lay-ups? This is definitely not Cardinal territory.

Five minutes later the announcer announces they have given that foul to Jayne after all. Now that we have never seen before, changing the fouls way after the fact.
Jill takes the ball coast to coast, and takes out a cheerleader. We look good, although C and R are worried when ASU presses us. We are not the best against the press and the rest of the basketball world knows it, number two ranking or not.

Halftime comes with Stanford winning 39-33. If Stanford keeps playing like this they will win this thing. It doesn’t hurt Stanford’s chances with Simon out, either. C and R later talk to an ASU fan and they heard it was an ACL. Not good for Arizona.

At the start of the half, C grinds her teeth when she sees that offense again with the big post taking the ball at the top of the three point line and handing off, not a pass, a hand off to the guards. At one point, Kayla has the ball at the top of the three with her back to the basket and when no guard comes around to take the hand off, she turns and dribbles, and dribbles off her foot. Okay, this is the reason we don’t want Kayla playing point guard, Tara, please change the offense, and we all know how much Tara listens to our blogs. Arizona State pulls within four, 45-41.

Necka decides to show up for this half, after not doing much the first, and makes athletic drives to the basket. Man, she can jump. During an ASU foul shot, Ros runs on the court and motions and Kayla dutifully runs off, right in to a red-faced Tara who barks her back on the court and yells for Necka to run off. Oops, girls, don’t make Tara mad.

And then the game turns rough, or as rough as the refs will let them get away with, which is a lot. In fact, it seems that the refs are about a play behind. They will miss an obvious travel call on ASU and then the next time ASU comes down they call a phantom travel. They miss an obvious hack and the next time will call a fingernail touch.

At one point we get 4 or 5 rebounds, everyone from both teams gets knocked down at least once, no calls whatsoever, and the next time down on offense, Kayla gives the player guarding her a little shove and gets whistled. They missed so much worse than that.

Stanford keeps feeding it into Jayne and she connects, she is taking it home with no signs of knee pain. It is 52-45, Jayne wants this game, and then it is suddenly 61-45. Stanford has this! Jayne ends up with 29 points.

This game seemed a lot closer than that. It was distressing to see that ASU would set a pick for their point guard and we wouldn’t switch quickly enough, or the big girl would roll and make the shot. We need to solve the switching problem. Also equally distressing was the missed foul shots at the end. Jill missed the front end of two one-and-ones in a row. Pohlen made the first shot and missed, rinsed and repeated. This Ain’t High School! Then she finally made both in a row. Hurray, third time’s a charm!

Stanford wins 77 to 68 and gets the regular season PAC-10 title outright, no sharing.
C and R yell for a red victory ball but none are forthcoming. We settle back into our seats for the senior tribute. They play a montage of Jill Harmon and Morgan Clyborn. Ros came in with them and would be a senior, but she red-shirted and has one more year, and she gives a heartfelt tribute in the video. Boy, someone at Stanford sure got media savvy with these videos.
They honor Matt, the practice player who has helped them out for three years. He is a senior. They also honor Jake the play-by-play guy for Stanford radio. Earlier they showed a cute clip of him doing a play-by-play of Ros going to class and ordering food. It was funny.
R cries a little. Morgan cries going through the line of players to get to Tara. Jill also cries as every single player hugs her and she does what all good ball players do when facing tears; she wipes it away with her jersey.

Tara says thanks to the fans and how ‘bout them PAC-10 champs! We go to the building where the Fast Break Club has gathered to see and hear from Jill and Morgan. Their families tell stories and then it is the players' turn to tell stories. JJ and Jayne are not shy about getting up and taking center stage, and they are funny. Ros is a born entertainer and regales us with stories for so long that Tara tries to take away the microphone. She moves out of her reach and keeps going.

C and R are bummed to see them go, especially Jill. It is like losing a friend, said R. She became one of C’s favorite players this year. We will miss her; after all, we have stalked Jill for four years! What will we do?

Good thing there is the PAC-10 tournament coming up and we have tickets for the NCAA playoffs happening at Berkeley. Senior Day is always so bittersweet.

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