C and R have done the unthinkable. We have ventured into enemy territory. We have gone to….dunt-dun-dun….CAL!
Someone was looking out for the Cardinal when they made sure that if they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen they would play at the Berkeley Regional on Cal’s campus, right up the road. Cal, meanwhile, had to fly to Trenton, New Jersey! Hee hee! (Although C had Cal losing in the second round and now her bracket is all messed up!). Stanford will be playing Ohio State with the winner going to the Elite Eight.
This is our first trip to Hass Pavilion ever, even though it is less than an hour away from us. C and R drive around Cal trying to figure out the parking signs and finally park. The concession stand is a nightmare, as Cal students can’t figure out how to properly pop popcorn. (It’s true, they would fill a single bag in the back, and one person would walk the bag to the popcorn popper out front and place it inside and then go back for another single bag!) While C was standing in line, they ran out of hot dogs and drink lids. Maybe they were not expecting this to be a big crowd for women’s basketball. Stanford fans like their hot dogs and sodas.
C sees they have bags of peanuts for sale and buys one. When she gets to her seat (whoa, steep trajectory to the sunk-in floor, don‘t want to tip over!), she realizes she has no where to put her shells, so C and R take turns piling up the shells under their seats on Cal’s floor! (Hee Hee) We settle in to watch the undercard match, Michigan State vs. Iowa State.
We are with about a dozen friends and we ask V, the person who had enough foresight to buy this block of tickets for us way in advance, who she thinks is going to win. She says she wants Iowa State to win but thinks Michigan State will win. Oh, the old hedging bets routine. C and R have no vested interest in this game as we had both teams losing in earlier rounds in our brackets; although Stanford will play the winner of this game if they get by Ohio State.
Michigan State has a small lead in the final two minutes but plays with no sense urgency and they manage their timeouts wrong. Iowa hits two three pointers at the end to pull off the victory. Michigan State deserved to lose by not playing smart at the end. C and R realize after watching Stanford all these years that Tara has the players ready for any scenario and she manages the clock well. We are, in a good sense, spoiled.
C asks R if she thinks this game will be a sell out. The place is pretty packed, but we notice there is an empty block of seats in the middle front. The place will look empty if the TV camera pans there. C and R have been screaming all tournament about empty arenas. We hope this won’t be the case here, where we support women’s basketball. We wonder if the seats are corporate giveaways and the people they gave them to couldn’t be bothered to show up. As the minutes count down, most of the seats do get filled with Stanford fans. Good, we were worried. They announce a crowd of 6,178. Not bad. That is certainly better than the PAC-10 Tournament at USC and other regional sites.
The bands are regulated to little boxes and the Stanford student bandleader already decides he can’t fit in the tiny box. He stands outside the box with the cheerleaders to be able to move around. When Stanford plays, they move their bodies and swing in time to the beat and those who are not playing their instrument at that particular moment dance. With their red vests and kooky hats and individualized pins and other doo-dads, the band is indeed an eclectic bunch. The Ohio State Band wears matching maroon polo shirts with no individualization whatsoever, sit when they play and do not move a muscle or show an ounce of emotion. Those who do not play their instrument sit quietly waiting to play again. The bandleader is some elderly gentleman with headphones on, all the better to not hear the music. When Ohio State shoots a free throw the whole band spells out "O-H-I-O" in block letters with mechanical precision. It is a little scary!
The game starts and we have our big lineup in, and Jayne actually wins the jump. Repeat, Jayne won the jump! But then we look rattled and nervous and make rookie mistakes, because Necka is a rookie and keeps throwing the inbounds pass away, and we are quickly down 2-8. Their center, lat name Lavender, is 6’4 and their point guard, Sammy something, is quick and pushes the tempo. Necka gets yanked for Ros and Ros hits two threes and brings us some calmness and sanity.
Whenever there is a timeout, and this game, actually being shown on regular ESPN, not ESPN 2 or some shopping network, has a lot of loooong TV timeouts, uh, I lost my train of thought, those timeouts were so long. Oh yeah, whenever there is a timeout the Ohio State bench, who has perfectly good chairs provided by Cal, mind you, brings out these little canvas camp chairs for everyone to sit on in the middle of their half of the floor. They have a little camp out right in the middle of the game, with some s’mores and hot chocolate and the coach telling ghost stories about this giant Jaaayne and the Creature known as Kayla coming to get you….Wait, I digress, but it is funny to see Ohio State camping out on the floor!
Pohlen starts playing like a woman possessed. We pull ahead 9-8 but the Ohio State guard single-handedly pulls them back with her quick drives to the basket, until Kayla draws a charge on her. Kayla is so smart.
Jayne is not having a good half and to make matters worse, she misses a free throw. This ain’t high school, or even regular season, or even the PAC-10 tournament, Jayne, this is the one-loss-and-you-are-out-so-you-better-make-your-free-throws-kinda-game, Jayne! Jayne missed the second free throw.
Jill makes one of her great steals and basket, and is really hustling everywhere. With six minutes left in the first half we have a slight lead, 29-24. Ohio State’s center, Lavender, gets two quick fouls around the five minute mark and goes to the bench, That helps Stanford immensely. Ohio State has another camp out, I mean, timeout.
Pohlen is trying to run fast breaks but Necka seems hesitant to go inside. With 18 seconds left, we knock the ball out of bounds. Ohio State inbounds the ball and Pohlen steals it and Necka runs ahead but not hard enough or fast enough. They steal it back, they can’t get their shot to fall and it is 37 to 35 at half, we have the lead.
After a long stand in lines for both the bathroom and a pretzel, C makes it back with 17 seconds to spare.
We open the half with great defense. Jayne gets fouled as she shoots and the ball gets stuck right between the rim and the backboard. The refs look around for another ball and C yells for Necka and as if she heard, Necka gets up from the bench and looks at Tara to make sure it is okay and then trots out and jumps up to tap the ball free. Hee hee, if that doesn’t intimidate the other team….
Then Jayne misses 2 more free throws.
But to credit Jayne, she is still playing hard. She runs the fast break and Pohlen gives an incredibly long pass, and Jayne and scores and takes out a Stanford Dollie. Slingin’ Sammy from Ohio State keeps up the pressure and slashes and drives in, or dishes off in the last second and Ohio State gets some easy baskets.
Their center, Lavender gets her fourth foul at the 12-minute mark and goes to the bench. She stays out until the 6-minute mark, and that is just what Jayne needs. When she comes back in, Ohio State’s guard, Sammy, wills her team to score and Stanford goes cold. With 5 and a half minutes left, our lead has dwindled. The score is 66-62. C and R are nervous!
Then, finally, with about five minutes left, Jayne and Necka take turns scoring, or passing to each other to score, and we miraculously pull away. Ohio State camps out again to talk about it and /or tell ghost stories, but they have no answer. Jill makes her fourth steal of the game, feeds it to Pohlen on the wing. She gives Jill a give and go right back to her and Jill makes the basket and is fouled. Insult to injury! The crowd roars and roars again as she makes the free throw. The next time down Jill hits a three, and she didn’t make one all season or somehtin’, it’s that kind of magic now.
The final score is 84 to 66, but the game was much, much closer than that. Jayne ended up with 25, most of theme came in the second half. Jill had 16, Necka had 15 and Ros had 10. Ohio State didn’t get much help from their bench, although the freshmen guard had 19 and was very impressive.
We are playing Iowa State on Monday, and from what C and R saw, we can totally handle them! Then off to the final four!! See ya Monday.