The rains held off as hundred of fans lined up outside Maples Pavilion a half-hour before the gates opened on Valentine’s night. They continued to hold off as Fast Break Club members left the post-game tent in Kissick. But inside Maples, the Stanford women’s basketball team rained – and rained hard – on Cal’s parade to the Pac-10 season title.
The Cardinal used a second-half surge, along with gritty defense and some sparkplug plays, to knock off Cal 58-41 to share first place with six games to go before the Pac-10 tournament. “It was a great win for our team,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “Cal is an excellent team, much better than last year,” but “our conditioning paid off for us” in the second half when the Bears seemed to run out of gas while the Cardinal were rejuvenated.
Associate head coach Amy Tucker was the first to head over from the locker room. One of the first questions she fielded concerned the status of sophomore guard Jeanette Pohlen, who collided head-on with Cal’s Natasha Vital late in the second half. Jeanette suffered a cut on her forehead and had to be helped off the court. “She’s getting stitches right now,” Amy said, adding that Jeanette’s mother was with her.
The team’s emotional leaders, junior center Jayne Appel and senior forward Jillian Harmon, pitched in 22 and 18 points, respectively. “Jill’s a rock,” Amy said. “We count on her for her gritty, hard play.” Tara added, “Jayne really stepped it up.”
But what had the fans buzzing was the spark provided by freshman guard Lindy La Rocque, who “gave us a tremendous lift,” Amy said. “I’ve never seen a dive quite like that,” she said, referring to Lindy’s diving under a Cal player to go after a loose ball and then – still on her stomach – pitching it to Jillian, who went in for the layup. “It really turned the game around,” Tara said, noting that Lindy also made an important 3-pointer during her 18 minutes of play. To top it off, she led the team in steals with three.
Besides Lindy’s dive, fans were abuzz about junior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude’s defense against Alexis Gray-Lawson, limiting her to just 4 points. That’s the same Alexis Gray-Lawson who rattled off 37 points when the Bears beat Stanford 57-54 at Cal last month. “Ros really D’d it up on her,” Tara said. “I guess she doesn’t own us anymore.” Ros “was really fired up,” Amy said.
Another factor in the Cardinal victory was that assistant coach Kate Paye “scouted their plays really well,” Tara said. Consequently, Stanford was well prepared, she said, crediting the bench players for their invaluable role in the week’s practices. “This was a great win for our program,” she concluded.