The five seniors and their teammates responded in kind with a 75-51 victory over Cal on March 3 at Maples. Thus the team:
- Recorded its second-straight undefeated season in the Pac10.
- Won its 11th consecutive Pac-10 season crown.
- Won its 55th consecutive game against Pac-10 opponents.
- Extended its record-setting home game win streak to 61, which means that the class of 2011 has never lost a game at Maples.
As fans began filling Maples before the game, many of them carried signs thanking the seniors and picturing all five of them – forwards Ashley Cimino and Kayla Pedersen, guards Hannah Donaghe and Jeanette Pohlen, and fifth-year guard Melanie Murphy.
Among those sitting in the family section were Jayne Appel, ’10, and her parents, who chatted for a while with head coach Tara VanDerveer. Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, who graduated as a fifth-year senior last year, also was on hand. She was working as a TV commentator for the game.
The National Anthem was well sung by Hookslide, the men’s quartet that includes Bud Anderson, director of videography. They were followed by a video of Tara thanking all the people connected with the games, people who aren’t usually recognized but who are so important to the team’s success and the fans’ experience.
Flowers for Cal’s seniors
Another touch of class – Tara presented flowers to Cal’s two seniors: Rama N’diaye and Rachelle Federico.
Then it was time for the game. Cal played hard and kept the score close during the first half, which ended with Stanford ahead 38-33. Halftime featured a group of Stanford students displaying the Axe, the traveling trophy given to the winner of the Big (football) Game between Cal and Stanford. Among those watching this display were the Cal band, cheerleaders and mascot Oski.
During timeouts, three Trees cavorted in their costumes, joined by a green-hued guy, the Sprout, who will be next year’s Tree. As the second half wore on, this year’s Tree removed his costume and helped his successor put it on.
Special time for Hannah
And then there was Tara’s classiest gesture of all. With 25.8 seconds remaining and Cal with the ball, she put Hannah into the game. Hannah hasn’t played all season because of a knee injury, followed by surgery and ongoing rehab. Therefore, Tara kept Hannah safely in front of the bench, then quickly called a timeout to take her out.
All of Hannah’s classmates got into the game. Kayla and Jeanette both played 37 minutes, as did junior forward Nneka Ogwumike. Jeanette led the scoring with 18 points, while Kayla had 14 and Nneka had 16. Jeanette also had four rebounds, five assists and two steals. Kayla had nine rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Nneka pulled down eight rebounds to go with one block and three steals.
Following the traditional tossing of victory balls into the stands, the crowd was treated to a video featuring the evening’s five honorees plus managers Kerry Blake and Dorothy Boakye-Donkor, both seniors. It’s available here.
The first people to be honored in person were the two graduating male practice players, Greg Klausner and Ilan Kolowitz. They were followed by Dorothy and Kerry, each with their families.
Cheers for seniors, families
Then it was time to honor the players, starting with Ashley, joined by her mother, Lisa, and sister, Caitlin. With Hannah were her parents, Dale and Karen, and sister, Haylee.
Mel was escorted by her mother, Rochelle, while Kayla came onto the floor with her parents, Gary and Kelli. Finally, Jeanette was joined by her parents, John and Cindy, and her brothers, John and Tom.
Because the game had started at 8 p.m. on a school night, there was no opportunity to hear directly from the players and their parents. However, four of the seniors, minus Hannah, who was on a class field trip, had spoken to fans after the Oregon game on Feb. 26.
Finally, the seniors, families and everyone else involved in the ceremony, including the rest of the Stanford team, posed for pictures as the band played the alma mater song.
And the best part of it all – it’s not over. There’s the Pac-10 tournament in LA next weekend, followed by the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament at Stanford the following weekend and then …. Spokane? Indianapolis? We’re ready.