Well, that was too close. Yes, the final score says the Stanford Women’s Basketball team beat Cal 75-51, but it was a lot closer than the score indicates, especially for the first half. It’s funny, Stanford’s official website has the headline, “Stanford Dominates California, 75-51.” C and R didn’t see it that way. Cal shot 50% in the first half. We mean, they just didn’t miss, everything they threw up appeared to go in, so much so that we thought it was 100%. Layshia Clarendon was impressive for Cal, scoring 12 points. Her team used screens to free her up and she shot well. Rachelle Federico was also impressive, scoring 16 points with two three pointers. Cal looked focused and tough, not intimidated like last game, and weren’t backing down just because they were at Maples.
Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike got beat up and knocked down a lot. At first it appeared her ankle was better, setting the tone with winning the jump ball and orchestrating the opening basket with an alley-oop-no-touch-the-floor shot. But as she got knocked around she appeared to be favoring the ankle. Sister Chiney Ogwumike got the raw end of a push-down-to-the-floor and Cal rightly received a technical for the intentional foul (Chiney missed both shots, though, much to her chagrin).
But, as always, it was a tale of two halves. The half time score was 38-35 Stanford, and only because Jeannette Pohlen hit a three with 21 seconds left, meaning, let’s see, we have to do math, Cal had cut the lead to two after trailing by six at the two and a half minute mark. Then Cal only shot 20 % from the floor in the second half, making just one three-pointer and they lost their air of invincibility as well as their scoring touch. Lead scorer Denesha Stallworth for Cal was held to zero points. Talia Caldwell fouled out. Stanford shot 60% from the floor in the second half (Nate Q McCall will be so impressed with our statistical quotings). Stanford made some incredible steals and fast breaks, and several could be on a highlight reel, but we loved the Toni Kokenis steal and run, pass to Jeanette Pohlen who touch passed it right back to Toni who scored an easy lay up. Cal actually got within 9 twice in the second half but after the second time they got it within 9, Stanford stepped it up a gear, steals, shutdown defense, fast break points and boom, a 24 point victory.
Other Notable things going on that night:
Foam finger. With the game being 8 PM instead of the usual 7 PM C and R are all discombobulated about the time. We decided to drive to Stanford, park, eat, and then go to Maples. Even though we are there in plenty of time for tip off, horror of horrors, we are too late to get one of the 500 free foam finger give aways. Apparently, 4,730 other people beat us to it. C is bummed. No really, C pouted for a whole half. When we saw the 500 lucky fans that had the give away, and discover it is really a red foam tree with the Cardinal "S" that fits on your hand, C nearly cried. Now C is near depression levels. Seriously, this is the woman who still yells at the t-shirt people to throw a t-shirt her way when a three is made, and knocks over little old ladies for victory balls. She is majorly bummed. R does her best to ask around for a tree, even trying to cheer C up by saying maybe someone will forget theirs after the game and we can scoop it up. It doesn’t work.
Then, as C and R go to meet their friends N and A at the T-shirt shack at half time, something happens, R is not sure what, but there was much whispering and pointing and gesturing and haggling and money changed hands and presto, C has a foam tree. She is one happy camper. C and R and their friends admire the craftsmanship of the tree. When we smell cigarette smoke inside Maples, C dutifully waves away the smoke with her foam tree. Handy and stylish! What more could you ask for?
And….Senior Night Part II
When C and R first walked into Maples, we saw injured Stanford senior Hannah Donaghe in an actual warm-up suit and not the black sweatsuit of injury. We figure they wanted to make Hannah feel like part of the team. Then, with 45 seconds left in the game, we see Tara VanDerveer talking to Hannah who is, gasp, in full uniform, shirt, shorts, everything. Meanwhile the Stanford team on the court is battling for rebounds with Cal. Is she going in, we wonder? Yes, she goes in! She goes in the game with 25 seconds left and dutifully stands just inside the court, by the half court line, as legal as you can be without actually playing the game. She is not moving. It is clear she cannot physically play, but Tara wanted to give her one last moment on her home court. The crowd gives her a arousing ovation. Tara is a class act letting Hannah step onto the court on final time. But the game IS going on. And even though Stanford is playing 4 on 5, Tara is still worried for Hannah and calls her to the bench, inches away from her, yet still on the court. So protective, it was cute. Tara does not want anything to happen to her as scrappy play is happening 30 feet away from her.
Finally, Cal sinks a three and then they decide to do a full court press down by 24 (have to admire Cal coach Joanne Boyle not giving up) and because Stanford is playing a man down with Hannah all but on the sidelines, Mikaela Ruef cannot inbound the ball. Her three choices are being guarded by five Cal players, so she smartly calls a timeout rather than lose possession of the ball. Tara decides she doesn’t want to risk Hannah anymore and has her sit down, subbing in Joslyn Tinkle at the 19 second mark. The official Stanford stats lists Hannah’s time played as “0+” minutes.
So the game ends and the announcer says, “Stay in your seats for the senior night tribute.” And everyone stays in their seats except for our friends N and A, who left the building before the final basket! Yes, that’s right, we are calling you out publicly in the blog. You left before the final basket. On senior night! And didn’t even get a foam tree! How un-Stanford can you get!! Hee hee.
Stanford recognized Cal's seniors before tipoff, announcing their names and giving them token flowers. The other Stanford seniors honored after the game, besides Hannah, were Ashley Cimino, Melanie Murphy, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen, plus two male players and two students staff managers. Cool. After a video tribute, players and staff walked out on the floor with their parents and received a bouquet of roses. Hannah was in tears, it must be hard to be injured two of the four years she played. The four seniors, minus fifth-year senior Mel, haven’t lost on Maples floor, and all have a record 61 game wining streak going on. They have two more NCAA games on the floor and are trying to remain undefeated. The team also won its 11th PAC-10 championship. And, this senior class, according to the Stanford website, is trying to become the first in school history to reach four straight Final Fours.
One last note:
Now Stanford needs to prepare for the PAC-10 tourney, and we read, again from the Stanford website, something we rarely hear; Tara rewarded the players with 3 days off!
Also from the website, Cal’s classy quote:
"They're a great team," Federico said. “The first thing said to them after their little huddle, 'Hey, go win a national championship.'”