Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stanford Beats Cal In Last Regular Season Game

Let’s see what would make a good sub heading?

-Nneka To the Rescue (Well, Kayla Pedersen did score that last second basket to end up with 23 points to Nneka’s 22. Did they have a little side bet going on to see who would be high scorer? However, it WAS Nneka Ogwumike’s ability to elevate and score when we seemed nervous and stuck offensively that saved the day. Although we saw Jeanette Pohlen looking for Kayla when she was pressured, and Kayla was so calm and collected when pressured and dribbled out of many jams so I guess they both saved the day and that is not an accurate headline.)

-Surprise, Stanford wins by Defense (Yes, Stanford is not known for their defense, but their defense was phenomenal in stopping Cal and making them miss when they did get a shot at the basket-more on that later-but that makes for a boring headline.)

-Kill off One Head of the Three Headed Monster and the Other Two Will Rise to Eat You (No, too obscure, because then we would have to explain that with our Jayne Appel out, one part of the three trees, or monster heads, we still have Kayla and Nneka, and you can’t stop them, too, and oh never mind if you have to explain it it’s just not funny…so how about…)

-Jayne Appel on Sidelines with Sprained Ankle. C and R Have Heart Attacks! (That’s more like it for a sub headline. Wait, hold it, we are getting ahead of the story, and whenever C and R go anywhere, like Cal, there’s always a story, and this is no exception. So let’s start at the beginning)

Perhaps a headline should be "Surprise, Surprise, Stanford fans find parking in Berkeley". After we find our parking space, C and R stop for a snack and R has a breakfast burrito and C has a falafel with extra tahini sauce, in an only-in-Berkeley Greek/American restaurant. Food was excellent BTW.

So C and R continue our walk in to Haas Pavilion for the game between the Cal Bears and The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team. A large and spirited crowd is outside Haas Pavilion and it is a carnival-like atmosphere.

Once inside, the place is about 3/4 full with and an announced attendance of 5,137. We try to figure out where our general admission ticket allows us to sit, while eyeing seats we could possibly move down to… (I know, we are shameless. C blames R). While moving around, R sees her friend from Cal, who we will call P (I know, R has a friend. A friend not named C). She introduces C and R to her other Cal friends. We make it a point to promptly forget their names. No hard feelings, just C and R are old and forgetful. Then P says what’s up with your girl Jayne in sweats with that boot? You could have knocked C and R down with a feather. We stare at the blonde women in black sweats and a gray T-Shirt (she didn’t want to give in totally to the black sweats of injury). You would think we would know that Jayne was injured. We excuse ourselves and say we need to go find out.

C spots a lot of reporters at press row. She thinks she could go down there and ask, say she is part of the press, find out what happened. She starts down the stairs (which are angled a little too steeply, if you ask her, what’s up with that, Cal?) when a big Usher appears before her and C abruptly alters course down a tunnel. Rats, foiled again. They are checking tickets before anyone can move into the closer sections.

C and R locate the one section where Stanford fans are allowed to sit with their general admission tickets. We figure we will be safe here and can even break out our tinkle bells. Another group of Stanford fans has theirs already out. They look like Christmas bells from the tree. C congratulates them on the bells and smiles inwardly. We see a large group of people across from us courtside, so large that they take up an entire section to themselves and are all wearing the same red shirt. Must be more Stanford fans.

While sitting in the Stanford section, C sees the Ushers are distracted with something, so she quickly moves, jumping over rows of seats and winding her way down to the front row. Unfortunately, Haas pavilion has a sunken floor, so the first row of seats stops at a railing and then drops away 10 feet to the floor. On Stanford’s court, courtside means you are sitting on the floor and can reach out and touch the players (and R once touched the ref as he ran up and down the floor). So even though the Ushers have not caught her and C is on the front row, she cannot easily get to the reporters. A group of fans blocks her access to get closer to them to shout so she is stuck on the side, right behind the Stanford bench. C sees assistant Coach Bobbi Kelsey alone. She figures this is her one chance. She yells, “Hey, what’s the matter with Jayne”. Bobbi looks up and says, “She’ll be all right.” Translated, she means, “Get away, crazy person”. C asks again and Bobbi gives the same answer, and is now wondering where security is when you need them, and the Stanford Tree gets protected from fans, why can’t I? C finally catches on and skedaddles out of there before the Ushers discover her.

Walking back to the Stanford section, a Stanford fan asks what she said to Bobbi. C says she was trying to find out about Jayne Appel’s injury. The fan says Jayne sprained her ankle in practice and it is not that bad, and head coach Tara VanDerveer is just resting her as a precautionary measure and to have her ready for the Pac-10 Tournament. C repeats that to R when she is seated and another fan says, oh no, it was quite bad and almost broke and she will be out indefinitely. Just goes to show you can’t believe everything you hear from fans, and can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, especially if it is from us.

(No, we watched the taped game and the annoucers confirmed she rolled her ankle in practice doing a lay-up-by herself and she could have played today but Tara did want to keep her for the tournament. Jayne packed her gear just in case Tara changed her mind. She didn’t. Also read in the paper that a tour of 40 little girls were watching practice at the precise moment Jayne rolled her ankle and was hugging the basket post and trying not to swear and/or faint in front of them… poor Jayne!)

So anyhooo, thinking fast, C quickly texts our blogging partners at California Golden Blogs and asks if they can revise their prediction of the final score of this game. Actually, C and R are nervous about Jayne being out. She is our emotional leader and if she does well on the court, our team does well and vice versa. We could very well lose this game.

Cal does a very nice senior tribute before the game for the Cal seniors. Alexis Gray Lawson is everyone’s favorite and the Stanford section even stands up for her. They also thank the Cal seniors in the band and on the spirit squad. We thought that was classy. They gave flowers to the Stanford seniors, too. Then they introduced the Stanford starters. Freshman Joslyn Tinkle gets the nod to start in Jayne’s place. Maybe Tara thinks Cal might think Joslyn is Jayne out there, they do look alike. Then they do a lot of theatrics with lights and stuff for the Cal starters. Reminded us of an NBA game. It was fun and certainly energetic, but we know Tara would never stand for that at Maples.

We win the jump but we look nervous. Cal is pressuring point guard Jeanette Pohlen, just one guard on her, not a full court press and yet she turns it over. When we do get it to our basket, we have no inside presence and it is clear we are missing Jayne offensively. It’s like four players are on the court and the fifth is missing from the middle. What do we do? This does not look good. Then our defense kicks in.

When we are on the defensive end of the court, it is like Stanford mentally says, okay, this is what I know how to do. I don’t need Jayne, just cover my assignment. Every PAC-10 coach’s pick for defender of the year, Ros Gold-Onwude is on Cal’s Alexis Gray Lawson like glue.

C and R have been watching Stanford for years and C has even written a post conveying her surprise that Stanford is holding PAC-10 foes to low scoring totals because we are not known for our defense, but she sees she has clearly been off the mark all season long. Our defense, while not flashy, is stifling. They just do it so effortlessly you forget it is there. UConn likes to defend by stealing the pass and quickly taking the ball the other way for points. That creates highlights you see on ESPN. Stanford really just shuts you down. They shut down your leading scorer. They shut down your passes. They shut the door on getting any rebounds. They might guard you for the whole shot clock and make you take a bad last second shot or get the shot clock violation. Those plays might not make the highlight reels, but they consistently stop offenses from scoring. How could C have been so blind all season? Oh, they do one more thing on defense really well, something C has never seen another team do, and that is defend the screen really well.

So let’s say Ros is guarding Alexis at the top of the three-point line, Ros’ back is to the basket. A Cal player comes up and makes a wall on Ros’ right shoulder. Alexis will continue moving to Ros’ right and get around both bodies and either pull up and shoot uncontested or dribble around both bodies and head to the basket. This usually works. What Stanford does in a case like that is double team the ball handler. So as the Cal player on Ros’ right shoulder is holding her in place, Nneka is behind the Cal player, now on Ros’ right side, too. As Alexis dribbles to Ros’s right, Nneka comes out to meet the ball as Ros fights over the top of the screen. Alexis cannot shoot uncontested or drive to the basket. If Alexis crosses over to her other hand away from Nneka, she meets Ros. So the most logical thing to do is…dribble backwards away from the basket. Now, in that fleeting moment Nneka and Ros are both on Alexis, the screener is open. But the guard cannot see her or get a clean pass to her because of Ros and long-armed Nneka. It is a little thing, but done well and stops the scoring. All the Stanford bigs do it well: Kayla, Jayne, Joslyn, Nneka. Cal tried to screen all night and could not get their best scorer, Alexis, free. Around the second or third play of the game, Nneka came out to double team off the screen and harassed the ball handler so much she stole it. She was alone with a path to the basket. Unfortunately she had to dribble the ball half the court. Did we mention Nneka is not the best dribbler? She lost it, of course. Hmm, might want to work on that in the off-season!

Just under the 15-minute mark left in the first half, Nneka committed her first foul. C and R held their collective breath. Tara takes her out of the game. Nooooo, not with Jayne on the bench. I mean, we hate it anyway when she takes Nneka out any time, but we need Nneka and Kayla if we are to win this game. Tara agrees with us because a minute and a half later she puts Nneka back in. Whew. It was just a token punishment. Later Nneka dribbles off her foot. Nneka, off-season.

With about three minutes left in the first half, the score is 17-20, Stanford. We have held them without a basket for 6 minutes and then 4 minutes. So yes, this is a low scoring game for both teams, and we are only up 3 points. Tara puts in veteran Micelle Harrison with 4 minutes left. We like the fifth year veteran, and even though she might not score a lot, she can add her maturity and poise to Stanford. She gets a lay-up, a rebound, an assist and a block, followed by another rebound in her four minutes of play. She also looked aggressive and gave us a spark off the bench. We go into the locker room with a 26-19 lead. Seven points is great, but had we had Jayne in there, you could probably add about 8 more to that total. We are still not out of the woods yet.

We wander around at half time and see that group of Stanford fans with the matching red shirts. They say “House of Jayne” and “UnstoppAppel” on the back and a picture of Jayne on the front. We find out it is about 60 of Jayne’s family and friends who came out to support her. We figuratively cry that Jayne could not play this last game of her regular season. We later find out from the TV broadcast that Jayne didn’t know about the shirts and said to her Dad a typical teenage, “Oh Dadddd,” when she saw them. We also read later that Jayne had missed only one other regular-season game, the first one of her freshman season. She had played in 138 straight games since, the most by any female player at Stanford. More than Candice Wiggins! What an incredible career!

Then as we where coming out of the bathroom, R says to a woman in a Jayne shirt, “You’re Jayne’s Mom, aren’t, you?” She answered yes and we would have bugged her more, but another stranger was already talking her ear off and asking about Jayne’s ankle as we eavesdropped. She confirmed it wasn’t that bad. Cool, we got to see Jayne’s mom!

Than in the closing seconds, as we were getting ready to go back to our seats R says, “Hey, there’s Jayne Appel!” Sure enough, Jayne, Sarah Boothe and assistant coach Kate Paye were heading to the women’s bathroom. (What, Cal, you don't have enough women’s facilities in your visitor’s locker room?).

C and R, like the good stalkers we are, follow. Okay, R hates when C says we are stalkers, we are just fans who get star-struck and don’t really stalk or break the law or hide in bushes and take photos or anything, but this was stalking. C starts meticulously washing her hands. R announces loudly, “Boy I sure like those ‘House of Jayne’ shirts that group was wearing.” C embarrassed, looks at her and mouths, “Shut UP.” R announces again that the picture on the front sure was cool or some such nonsense, C can’t remember because she is thoroughly mortified and staring daggers at R. The women emerge from the stalls and surround C to wash their hands. R hides behind a wall mostly because she knows C wants to kill her. C says, “Give ‘em Heck,” to the trio, well, what she really said rhymed with tinkle bell, but the trio just want to get out of there as fast as they could. So Jayne and Sarah and Kate, that was us, those two idiots in the bathroom grinning like, well, idiots. Hi, we are usually not so dorky. We text the California Golden Blog Boys “Sorry we couldn’t meet, we were too busy stalking Jayne Appel and family!”

The game blessedly begins again so we can’t make ourselves into fools anymore and Cal comes out in a full court press this time. They pressure Pohlen and they pass quickly to either Nneka or Kayla, our two remaining trees. We break the press and get some fast break points. We said it at the top of this (very long) blog, Nneka to the rescue, but we’ll say it again, she rescues us offensively again and again. We are up by 15, with the score 45-30 with 10 minutes gone in the second half. That means Cal has only scored 11 points in 10 minutes.

At one point Nneka makes a great basket and gets fouled and looks to the Stanford beanh and screams and pumps her fist. We love the attitude! Wait, we recently wrote a post saying we didn’t like Brittney Griner’s attitude when she blocked our dunked on people. The difference is Brittney would look at them and make the gestures to intimidate. Nneka did the gesture to her bench and it was a celebration, not an intimidation play. That’s what we think about our polite and precious Nneka, anyway.

Tinkle gets s a three and a lay up to go with her other 3 in the first half for a total of 8 points and our tinkle bells were busy.

All game long during breaks the Cal spirit squad has been throwing T-Shirts to the crowd. C instinctively stands up and waves her arms, but for some reason when they see the sea of red, they don’t throw any our way. Now in the closing minutes of T-Shirt tossing, C stands up because it is an in-joke now with the Stanford fans, wink, wink, we know they won’t throw one our way. The guy in blue looks at C for a long moment…Will he….

He does.

He lets it fly and it lands right in C’s hands. She doesn’t’ even have to climb over anybody!

Someone says, “throw it back” like in baseball when the opposing team hits a home run ball. But no, C is keeping this. First, she breaks out her knife, because what good Stanford fan doesn’t travel to Cal with their knife? No, just kidding, just kidding! Really! C was a former Girl Scout and Boy Scout Leader so she is always prepared and carries one of those mini pocketknife all-in-one-tools around with her everywhere. You never know when you might need to unscrew a Phillips head screw (no serousily, she bleives that). So her little pocketknife thingie has scissors and she cuts the sleeves off the Cal shirt. Then she gets out her sharpie marker (remember, always prepared) and scratches out anything Cal on it and writes Stanford and “Fear The Trees!” (She forgot to get to Stanford to buy the real deal shirt) She was going to then draw pictures of a healthy Kayla and Nneka and a forlorn Jayne in her boot when she realized she really should pay attention to the game. Tinkle blocks the heck out of Cal. The TV announcers said that Tinkle contributed well with her rebounding. She had 9 for the game.

She put the shirt on over her Stanford shirt so her red sleeves stick out. She watches Kayla gets that last basket as we mentioned to send Stanford home with a 63-48 victory. Kayla and Nneka combine for 45 of those 63 points and each had double figures in rebounds. Joslyn, our baby tree had 8 of those 63 points, so the those trees combined for 53 of the 63 points. Wow! Oh, those three trees had 33 of the 42 rebounds.

Fun , fun , fun although tense game. We liked our adventure so much that we are going to try and get down to LA for some of the PAC-10 tournament. Look for us with the ripped up, crossed out Cal shirt!

More Stanford (but not Cal) Stuff at the original C and R's Stanford Women's Basketball Blog

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