December 17, 2012

Pacific helps Cardinal extend streaks

It was cold and rainy outside, but Maples Pavilion was warm and cozy Dec. 15 as the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated University of the Pacific 78-43.

Thus the No. 1-ranked Cardinal extended its season record to 9-0 and the nation’s best ongoing home winning streak to 82.

Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike played a big role in the victory with yet another double-double – a career-high 31 points plus 13 rebounds – to go with two assists, three steals and one block. Despite being double-teamed most of the time, she did all that in only 28 minutes, spending nearly the last seven minutes on the bench, soon to be joined by her fellow starters.

Leading her team in scoring isn’t Chiney’s only good quality. She also cares about her teammates, For example, as the game wound down, she moved to the end of the bench to sit and talk with her two sidelined teammates, freshman forward Aly Beebe and sophomore guard Alex Green.

Aly is out for the season while she recuperates from an ACL injury, but it is hoped that Alex can return to action early next year after missing most of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.

Mikaela contributes career-high rebounds, assists

Also joining Chiney with career highs was redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, who added career highs of 13 rebounds and five assists. She also had three blocks in 20 minutes. Although she scored only 2 points, her other stats reflect her value to the team.

Senior forward Joslyn Tinkle was the only other Cardinal in double figures with 10 points. She also had four rebounds, one assist and one block in her 28 minutes.

The other two starters, junior guard Toni Kokenis and sophomore guard Amber Orrange, had 8 and 9 points, respectively. Toni also had three assists and a steal in 26 minutes. Amber, who played a team-high 30 minutes, had two rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Coming off the bench, junior guard Sara James added 6 points, while sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson contributed 5 and freshman forward/center Tess Picknell added 3. Sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield and sophomore guard Jasmine Camp each had 2.

Despite the lopsided score, the Stockton team played tough defense, especially on the perimeter. Therefore, Stanford had no 3-pointers in the first half, which ended 42-27, and only two in the second. That’s when Sara and Bonnie were successful. As a team, the Cardinal made 18.2 percent of its 3’s.

Another reason why the Cardinal lagged in the 3-point column may have been that Taylor, who has had the hot hand from beyond the arc, was injured when she was fouled under the Stanford basket with 14:49 to go in the second half.

After being attended to by trainer Marcella Shorty and another woman for several minutes, Taylor was able to get up and walk to the locker room with their assistance as the crowd applauded. She didn’t return. There was no official word on her injury or condition.

Fans honor victims of school shooting

Another somber moment came at the start of the game, when announcer Betty Ann Boeving asked the crowd of more than 4,200 to stand for a moment of silence in honor of the 20 children and six adults shot to death by a gunman who then took his own life at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. He had killed his mother before going to the school.

This was followed by the national anthem, sung by sophomore Natasha von Kaeppler, who was the team manager last season and who fulfilled those duties during the game.

Because Stanford was on a holiday break after final exams, the band was relatively small, and the Tree, Dollies and cheerleaders weren’t there.

Dog lovers have their day

Nevertheless, there was still plenty of fun to be had, thanks to the annual Dog Lovers Day. It included numerous funny dog videos, film clips of movie dogs and photos of dogs belonging to fans and some of the coaches and players. Bonnie was shown with her dog, who sported nerd glasses, complete with tape across the bridge.

The highlight of Dog Lovers Day came at halftime with the return visit by eight agility dogs and their trainers from Bay Team. Ranging in size from a Corgi and a Pomeranian to Zoe, a 12-year-old black and white spotted Great Dane, the dogs ran over and through a series of obstacles and tunnels. Several of the dogs are therapy and/or service dogs.

As the obstacle course was being set up, fans honored Mary Cortani, founder of Gilroy-based Operation Freedom Paws. Saluted by CNN as one of its top 10 heroes of the year, Mary said her organization trains veterans to train their own service dogs in a 48-week program. As of last week, the group was serving its 91st vet, she said. The dogs come from shelters and rescue groups.

Alumnae return to watch

Several alumnae were on hand, including Morgan Clyburn, ’09, and Markisha Coleman, ’07, who were leading their Menlo-Atherton High School girls basketball team on a field trip to the game. Morgan is the team’s new head coach, assisted by Markisha and Lindy La Rocque, ’12.

Melanie Murphy, ’11, also was there as a spectator and stopped by the bench before the game. The traditional Twist Cam also focused briefly on her during a timeout.

The name of Jayne Appel, ’10, came up via 6’5” Tess, who was the focus of the game’s “Get to Know the Freshmen” video feature. Besides brief answers about things like her dorm and favorite food, Tess named Jayne as her favorite athlete. Jayne, one of Stanford’s all-time greats, plays for the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars. During this WNBA off-season, the 6’4” center is playing in China.

Next on the Stanford schedule is a week-long road trip that will find the team facing No. 24 South Carolina on Dec. 19 and No. 13 Tennessee on Dec. 22. After a three-day break for Christmas, the players will return to the Farm to prepare for the much-anticipated match against No. 2 UConn on Dec. 29.

December 3, 2012

Stanford, Chiney dominate Davis

Even if junior forward Chiney Ogwumike hadn’t scored a career-tying 27 points at UC Davis on Nov. 30, the Stanford women’s basketball team still would have won – a tribute to the Cardinal’s depth and teamwork.

Stanford won the game 87-38, a 49-point margin. Subtract Chiney’s 27 points, and the score is 60-38, a 22-point margin as the team wrapped up the month with a 7-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in national polls.

Moreover, Chiney didn’t score her first basket until the 15:33 mark in the first half. Instead, junior guard Toni Kokenis started the scoring parade with a 3-pointer, followed by a 2 from senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, another 3 from Toni, a 2 from sophomore guard Amber Orrange and yet another 3 from Toni at the 16:45 mark, when Stanford led 13-6. Chiney’s first basket made the score 15-6.

After that, there was little that the hard-playing but outmatched Aggies could do against the onslaught by Chiney and her teammates. At the half, the score was 46-19, and Chiney had equaled Davis’s output with 19 points of her own. She also had 11 rebounds for a double-double in just one half.

Besides her 27 points, Chiney contributed 13 rebounds, two assists, three blocks and a steal in 31 minutes. Toni, who had gone three-for-three on 3’s, finished with 11 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 22 minutes. The only other player in double figures was junior guard Sara James, who tallied 10 points to go with two rebounds, three assists and two steals in 19 minutes.

Everyone gets in on the action

Head coach Tara VanDerveer used all 13 available players. With about 7 minutes to go in the game, the starters were done for the night.

The only player who didn’t show up in any statistic was sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson, who had played only three minutes in the first half before heading to the locker room with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Fans were relieved to see her walk back into the gym shortly after the second half had started, but she remained on the bench.

Otherwise, everyone else made some kind of contribution. Even freshman guards Kiran Lakhian and Denia Ebersole, who don’t get much time, got into the act. Kiran had 2 points and three rebounds in four minutes. Denia capitalized on her three minutes by making both of her 3-point shots for 6 points – her first points in a game that counts – much to the delight of her older teammates on the bench.

Another noteworthy bench contribution came from sophomore forward Erica Payne, who was second on the team with nine rebounds in addition to 7 points in 15 minutes.

Altogether, the team made nine of 21 3’s. Besides Toni’s three and Denia’s two, the others came from Sara and sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield with two each.

The Cardinal dominated the boards with 62 the to UCD’s 24. Stanford held the advantage in assists with 18, compared with UCD’s six. Likewise, Stanford had 12 blocks to UCD’s one.

Turnovers a minus for the team

The one blemish on the stat sheet was that Stanford had 17 turnovers, while Davis had 10. Part of the turnover advantage came from a tight Aggie defense that netted 11 steals, while Stanford had seven.

Despite the rainy weather, the game drew an official attendance of slightly more than 2,600. The majority of the fans appeared to be Davis students, most of whom remained standing throughout the game. Several dozen Stanford fans also were there. The team smiled and waved at them upon leaving the floor.

The Davis scoreboard doesn’t show individual stats. However, the announcer was quite informative, starting when Stanford took to the floor. He talked about the team’s No. 1 ranking and many of its accomplishments thus far. Introducing the UCD starting lineup, he included their majors in addition to their position, academic year, height and hometown. He also kept fans informed during the game.

Right before the game ended, word spread among Stanford fans that the school’s football team had defeated UCLA 27-24, thus winning the Pac-12 championship and securing a berth in the venerable Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day.

As fans were leaving after the game, they were serenaded in the drizzle by the Davis band, perched on and around an old fire engine just outside the gym.

In the meantime, Erica was inside being interviewed by the announcer for KZSU radio. Her mother, Laurie, sat nearby taking photos of her media star daughter.

The spotlight was back on the team Dec. 2 when Stanford defeated Gonzaga 69-41 in Spokane.

After a break for finals, the Cardinal return to action at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 when University of the Pacific comes to visit. It’s also Dog Lover’s Day, featuring agility dogs at halftime – always a big hit with fans.

November 27, 2012

Tara foresees ‘something special’

With the Stanford women’s basketball team ranking No. 1 in both national polls, boasting a 6-0 season record and extending its home winning streak to 81 games, “this can be something special,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said after the team had just defeated Long Beach State 77-41 on Nov. 25.

Looking ahead, the coaches and team are trying some new things “that hopefully will work well in three months,” Tara said during the post-game Behind the Bench session.

What the team has been doing so far is working pretty well, especially in light of its 71-69 upset of Baylor in Hawaii on Nov. 16. The Cardinal victory snapped the defending national champion’s winning streak at 42 games and revenged Stanford’s loss to Baylor in the semi-final game of the Final Four in Denver last season.

The Nov. 16 victory also catapulted Stanford from No. 4 to No. 1 in the polls for the first time since 2005 and knocked Baylor down from No. 1 to No. 3 behind UConn.

“The coaching staff is brilliant,” said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations. Opening the session, she was referring to the strategy that led to the victory over Baylor and the way that the Cardinal handled its star, 6’8” Brittney Griner.

11 players get into game

The Long Beach State game saw 11 players in action and significant contributions from both the starters and the bench. Senior forward Joslyn Tinkle led the team in scoring with 18 points in 31 minutes. She also had seven rebounds, a block and a steal.

Right behind her was junior forward Chiney Ogwumike with 16 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one steal in 26 minutes.

A third starter with stellar stats was sophomore point guard Amber Orrange, who flirted with a triple-double by recording 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds (all defensive) in 26 minutes.

“I thought Amber did a great job,” Tara said. “She really set the tone for the game. …She’s always in the gym working on her shot.”

Making her first career start at Maples after joining the starting lineup for the three games in Hawaii, redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef had six rebounds to go with four points and three assists in 20 minutes. Moreover, “she had a great game (against) Baylor,” Tara said. She had a game-high 12 rebounds in that contest.

Returning to the starting lineup at Maples after starting for the games in Hawaii and for much of last season, junior guard Toni Kokenis had 2 points in 11 minutes.

Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield had 11 points, two rebounds, three assists and a steal in 24 minutes.

Besides all the other positives that emerged from the game, the team also hit on 10 of 24 3-pointers for a 41.7 percent average. Taylor had three 3’s, while Joslyn and sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson had two each. Amber, junior guard Sara James and redshirt freshman guard Jasmine Camp each had one.

Quieter afternoon as holiday break ends

Even though it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the crowd numbered more than 3,500. However, the atmosphere was a bit quieter than usual with no band, as well as no Tree, Dollies or cheerleaders.

Also absent was longtime announcer Betty Ann Boeving. Her replacement was a man who was too loud and who annoyingly prolonged syllables when announcing Stanford players’ names. To his credit, however, he was more matter-of-fact during the game itself.

One fun addition to timeouts came with the Nerd City Camera seen on the video board during the second half. As the camera focused on faces in the crowd, they were seen in a frame that adorned them with black-framed glasses and a red bow tie – a crowd pleaser.

Even in Hawaii, “Everybody knows about Nerd City,” Eileen said after the game. The Nerd City moniker for Stanford and its athletes gained national attention after a YouTube video made by Chiney, her sister Nneka, ’12, several teammates and a number of athletes from other sports went viral.

Because the Baylor game wasn’t televised, several fans asked how they could get a video. Eileen said it’s not available to date because the University of Hawaii, the tournament host, holds the rights. She also said that ESPN had passed on the game.

Next Thanksgiving will find the team in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, followed by a return trip to Hawaii in 2014, Eileen said.

Eileen then yielded the microphone to associate head coach Amy Tucker, who was joined by Chiney. “Chiney has really elevated her game,” Amy said.

Chiney thankful for fans

“We have something really special here at Maples,” Chiney said, thanking the fans for their support.

The three games in Hawaii resulted in “a great team time,” she said. When it came her turn to give her teammates a pep talk before the Baylor game, she told them, “Fear no one.”

After playing with Nneka for her first two years at Stanford, Chiney’s role is different this year. “Part of it is self-discovery,” she said. “I’m trying to evolve into myself.”

“Making everyone aggressive is our No. 1 goal,” she added. “Hustle makes up for talent.”

A fan asked how she would describe herself in one word. After pondering, she said, “Introverted.” That drew a laugh. The ebullient, outgoing Chiney then added “competitive” among other qualities to her self-description.

Even though she had just finished playing a game, she said she was going to the gym to work on her shot. Before leaving, though, she crossed the court to pose for pictures and sign autographs for a group of youngsters, mostly girls.

Tara praises players

Tara completed the session with her comments, starting with “some people have really improved.” She cited Amber and Mikaela and noted that 6’5” freshman forward/center Tess Picknell “is making great strides every day in practice. She’ll play more as she gets more experience.” Tess played nine minutes in that day’s game and had three rebounds and a block. She took no shots.

As a team, “we are working on our conditioning,” Tara said, but the routine involves less running to avoid the foot problems experienced by some players last season.

Looking ahead, Tara said the Dec. 2 game at Gonzaga is sold out. Joslyn has been looking forward to that game because her younger sister, Elle, is a 6’2” freshman guard on the team.

Before flying to Spokane, though, the Stanford contingent will travel up Interstate 80 to take on UC Davis at 7 p.m. Nov. 30.

November 12, 2012

Team effort fuels win over Santa Clara

All 13 available players made positive contributions Nov. 11 as the Stanford women’s basketball team drove a few miles south to defeat Santa Clara University 92-57.

Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike poured in 22 points to lead the Stanford barrage. According to ESPNW, she scored her 1,000th career point midway through the first half and ended the game with 1,010 points on her resume. Her mother, Ify, was among the parents and other relatives there to cheer the team. After the game, she told me she plans to travel to Poland where her eldest daughter, Nneka, ’12, is playing professionally.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer altered her starting lineup somewhat, giving sophomore forward Erica Payne her first career start. Erica played 18 minutes and recorded 4 points along with three rebounds and one each in the assists, steals, rebounds and blocks column.

Joining her at the start were Chiney, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle and sophomore guards Jasmine Camp and Amber Orrange. Besides her 22 points, Chiney had seven rebounds, four steals and an assist in 25 minutes.

Playing a team-high 28 minutes, Joslyn finished with 19 points, four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. Amber was right behind her with 18 points, six assists and two steals in 25 minutes. Jasmine had 4 points, three assists and a steal in 24 minutes.

Freshman forward/center Tess Picknell and junior guard Toni Kokenis were first off the bench. They were followed by redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, sophomore forwards Bonnie Samuelson and Taylor Greenfield, and junior guard Sara James. Sara was high-scorer from the bench with 8 points, while Mikaela added 6 points to go with seven rebounds, tying Chiney. Mikaela also contributed an assist, a steal and a block.

Even freshman guards Denia Ebersole and Kiran Lakhian helped out despite playing slightly less than one minute at the end. Kiran scored 2 points, causing her teammates on the bench to jump up and cheer. Denia, playing the point, had an assist.

After making only one 3-pointer against Fresno State on Nov. 9, the team this time hit five of 12, or 41.7 percent. Sara had two. Amber, Joslyn and Bonnie each had one.

Stanford also collected 30 rebounds vs. 21 for SCU. Stanford’s steal advantage was 11-4, while teams were tied with 18 assists each. Stanford had 10 fouls and 11 turnovers, while SCU had 15 and 14, respectively.

It appeared that several hundred Stanford fans were among the 2,728 people there, but it was hard to tell for sure because Santa Clara’s colors are red and white, too, so there was a lot of red in the stands.

Before the game started, veterans in the crowd were asked to raise their hands and be honored for Veterans Day. At the half, approximately two dozen SCU women’s basketball grads were introduced at center court. Several had children with them.

SCU’s Leavey Center is a fan-friendly arena with lots of free parking (at certain times) nearby. The main drawback is that the jumbotron is on the wall at the visiting team’s end, and the scoreboard over center court provides only meager information beyond the score.

Rather than the numbers of each player in action and her points and fouls, it flashes a player’s number and point total only after she has scored. Hence it’s hard to keep track of everyone.

Leavey also is quieter than Maples because the small, sedate SCU band doesn’t play very often, and its songs aren’t all that lively. Most of the music is recorded.

Still, it was an enjoyable afternoon that saw the Cardinal pull to an early lead, gain a 47-32 advantage at the half and stay well ahead for the rest of the game. It also was gratifying to see how well certain plays were executed, how much the team hustled and defended, and how so many players excelled in one way or another.

November 11, 2012

Giants, vets, victory in home opener

The Fresno State Bulldogs gave the Stanford women’s basketball team all it could handle, but the Cardinal prevailed 72-61 to win its home and season opener Nov. 9.

Besides extending the nation’s best home winning streak to 80, the game also was an occasion to honor military veterans for Veterans Day and to honor the San Francisco Giants for its World Series championship.

The Giants’ mascot, Lou Seal, was on hand, and many fans wore Giants gear. For example, the Twist Cam winner sported a Giants jersey with Posey – for catcher/slugger Buster Posey – on the back.

During another timeout, Lou and the Tree tossed T-shirts and mini-balls into the crowd.
During halftime, the video board showed World Series highlights, starting with the final out of the fourth game in St. Louis and ending with the Oct. 31 celebration in San Francisco.

Lou and the Tree followed this up by dancing together at center court, where the Tree shed her costume and did the worm.

Before all this fun, veterans in the crowd were asked to come to the court at halftime to accept the fans’ applause. Another veteran in attendance was retired Navy Cmdr. Zoe Dunning, who served as honorary captain for the Cardinal.

According to her website, Zoe, a graduate of Annapolis and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, came out as a lesbian while studying at Stanford and serving in the Navy Reserves to protest Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She won her discharge hearing, served as the only openly gay U.S. service member for 13 years and retired with 22 years’ service. At his invitation, she stood next to President Barack Obama when he signed the repeal of DODT in 2010.

As announcer Betty Ann Boeving read off Zoe’s accomplishments before the tipoff, the crowd’s cheers grew louder and louder.

Stanford’s starting forwards were senior Joslyn Tinkle, junior Chiney Ogwumike and sophomore Taylor Greenfield. At the guard spots were junior Sara James and sophomore Amber Orrange.

Coming off the bench during the game were sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson, redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, redshirt freshman guard Jasmine Camp and junior guard Toni Kokenis, a 2011-12 starter who was seeing her first action of this season.

The game stayed close during the first half, which ended 34-29 in Stanford’s favor. It was tied 42-42 with 15:02 to go in the second half when the Cardinal went on a 14-2 run. One highlight of that run was a steal and score by Toni. Still, Fresno State refused to give up, but Stanford stayed ahead and won.

Playing a huge role in the win were Chiney’s 23 points and 17 rebounds in 40 minutes, along with Joslyn’s 20 points and eight rebounds in 39 minutes. Amber was the only other Cardinal in double figures, scoring 14 along with a team-leading five assists in 36 minutes. She also had five of the team’s 12 turnovers. Fresno State had 14.

Unusual for Stanford, the team was outrebounded 44-41. But Stanford had nine blocks, including four by Chiney and three by Joslyn, compared with the Bulldogs’ one. Steals were even at six each.

After making 27 3-point shots in the two exhibition wins, Stanford was limited to just one – by Taylor.

After the game, fans had a chance to gather for a Behind the Bench session. As Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, was making some introductory comments, freshman guard Denia Ebersole walked across the court and greeted a group of friends with signs supporting her.

Taking note of Denia’s fan club, Eileen said she had attended head coach Tara VanDerveer’s hoops camp in high school. She is among the 36 Stanford players who were former campers, Eileen said.

When associate head coach Amy Tucker arrived with Joslyn and freshman center/forward Tess Picknell, fan Lily Wong gave Amy a T-shirt and plaque to commemorate her induction into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame during the summer.

In keeping with a tradition for freshmen, Tess talked a little about herself. Hailing from Medford, Ore., she said she has an older sister who attends the University of Oregon. Her father was at the game. Her mother teaches at the Southern Oregon University in nearby Ashland. Three dogs complete her family.

Asked what she has been learning as a Cardinal, she said she’s working on defensive techniques and learning new ways to play offense, thanks to Amy.

She started playing basketball in second grade. As for college, “Stanford’s always been my dream school.” She told Stanford of her interest, but when Amy came to a game, her team lost. Tess feared that was that, but then she got a call telling her to try harder. When she learned she had been accepted at Stanford, she stopped considering any other school.

“Tess was quite the enforcer,” Amy said.

When Joslyn got the microphone, she said she had spent most of the summer at home in Missoula, Mont., “good old Big Sky County.” She worked out at the University of Montana, where her father is the men’s basketball coach. He also gave her some tips. She took some breaks to return to Stanford to help at hoops camp.

During that time she also tried to focus on filling the shoes of Chiney’s older sister, Nneka, who graduated in June after a stellar college career. She’s working on rebounding and being more aggressive, Joslyn said, adding, “I know my team relies on me a lot more this year.”

“Joslyn gave us great energy (and) got us going inside,” Amy said.

Now, Joslyn said, she is “trying to slow this year down as much as possible,” since it’s her last at Stanford.

She’s looking forward to the Dec.2 game at Gonzaga, where her sister is a freshman on the basketball team. Her parents are already making “Stan/zaga” shirts, she said.

In the meantime, she’s looking forward to revenge and redemption against Baylor, which defeated Stanford in the semi-final round of the Final Four in Denver and went on to win the national championship. Stanford and Baylor will face off Nov. 16 during a four-team tournament in Hawaii.

After meeting with the media, Tara came out to talk with the fans. “We are obviously a work in progress,” she said, but she cited the contributions made by several players.

“We didn’t shoot well tonight,” she said, alluding to the 49.2 percent rate. And even though Bonnie didn’t score after her 3’s led the team in scoring in both exhibitions, she “did a nice job defensively,” Tara said.

“This is a young team. It’s going to take awhile to gel,” Tara concluded.

November 3, 2012

Victory over Vanguard ends exhibition season

The Stanford women’s basketball team completed its exhibition weekend with a sweep – defeating Corban 117-33 on Nov. 1 and following up with an 82-47 defeat of Vanguard on Nov. 3. Both games were at home in Maples Pavilion.

Unlike Corban, which hadn’t faced the Cardinal before, Vanguard was making a return visit to the Farm. Both teams play at the Division II level, but meeting an elite squad like Stanford’s is a good experience for them.

It’s also a good way for the Stanford players to get a little more playing time and to learn while the coaches continue to evaluate plays and players.

Once again Stanford’s victory included a barrage of 3’s. Sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson started it right away when she delivered the team’s first score with a 3-pointer and went on to lead the team with five of its 13 for the night. Sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield and junior guard Sara James added four each.

The starting lineup featured three returning starters – senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, junior forward Chiney Ogwumike and sophomore guard Amber Orrange – along with Bonnie and redshirt freshman guard Jasmine Camp. As was true against Corban, the other returning starter, junior guard Toni Kokenis, was in uniform and warmed up with the team but sat at the end of the bench all afternoon.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer substituted freely, starting with Sara for Jasmine. Then came Taylor and redshirt junior guard Mikaela Ruef for Bonnie and Sara. Others who played during the first half were freshman forward/center Tess Picknell and sophomore forward Erica Payne. Freshman guards Kiran Lakhian and Denia Ebersole got in during the second half.

Outsized and out-defended, the opponent didn’t score until the clock hit 13:26, when a Vanguard player hit a 3 to make the score 13-3. The second Vanguard score, also a 3, came at the 9:45 mark to make the score 25-6. By the time the clock hit 8:22, Amber had made her third shot in a row. The half ended 44-21.

Whereas much of the offense seemed to come from the perimeter during the first half, it appeared that more plays were designed to go inside to Chiney and Joslyn or the other bigs during the second.

Several times during the second half, the lineup included just one guard and four forwards. For example, the second-half starters were Amber at the point plus Joslyn, Chiney, Bonnie and Taylor. Late in the second half, there was an all-forward lineup with Taylor presumably at the point.

Bonnie was the game’s high scorer with 18, followed by Taylor with 16, Sara with 14 and Chiney with 11.

The team pulled down a total of 55 rebounds, led by Joslyn with 10, and Chiney, Mikaela and Tess with eight each. Chiney was credited with five of the team’s 12 blocks. Amber contributed seven of its 17 assists, followed by Mikaela with four.

Vanguard did better in the turnover department, registering just 11 compared with Stanford’s 14. Fouls were fairly even – 14 for Vanguard, 15 for Stanford.

For the game, Stanford shot 42.6 percent overall, 37.1 percent for 3’s and 68.8 percent for free throws.

Except for Kiran and Denia, who entered late in the game, everyone else played between 15 and 23 minutes.

With two exhibition wins under their belts, the Cardinal will start the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, when Fresno State comes to Maples. Then it’s just a short jaunt down the road for a visit to Santa Clara at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.

November 2, 2012

Team coasts into action with 117-33 victory

Corban University proved to be no match for the Stanford women’s basketball team in its season-opening exhibition game Nov. 1 at Maples Pavilion.

Corban, a Christian college in Salem, Ore., plays in Division II and was making its first foray (at least in my memory) into Maples. Its plucky players won’t soon forget the likes of the Cardinal, which outplayed them in every aspect of the 117-33 game.

Unlike some recent exhibition games, this one had a few more features to add to the festive feeling as the band, Dollies and Tree were all on hand. This year’s girly Tree boasts a bow on top and lipstick on her mouth – one of the more stylish Tree looks.

As part of the pre-game routine, the captains from both squads met with the referees at center court. Representing Stanford were three forwards: senior Joslyn Tinkle, redshirt junior Mikaela Ruef and junior Chiney Ogwumike.

Returning to the starting lineup were Joslyn, Chiney and sophomore point guard Amber Orrange. They were joined by sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield and junior guard Sara James. Junior guard Toni Kokenis, the other returning starter, was in uniform and took part in warmups but sat at the end of the bench throughout the game.

Announcer Betty Ann Boeving was back at the microphone, and sophomore Natasha von Kaeppler has returned to her managerial duties. The coaching staff remains the same with head coach Tara VanDerveer joined by associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coaches Kate Paye and Trina Patterson.

Likewise the support staff remains the same except for strength and conditioning coach Susan Borchardt, who is on a year’s leave of absence to join her husband, who’s playing pro basketball in Europe. She is being replaced by Kurtis Rayfield, who was her intern last year.

The game got off to a good start as Chiney won the tipoff, batting the ball to Amber. After a couple of trips up and down the floor, Joslyn started Stanford’s scoring barrage after getting a ball that Amber had stolen. Corban recorded its first basket at the 16:41 mark, making the score 8-2.

Tara began subbing with about 15 minutes to go in the half as redshirt freshman guard Jasmine Camp came in for Amber. In succession, sophomore forwards Bonnie Samuelson and Erica Payne came in, followed by Mikaela and freshman forward/center Tess Picknell.

Freshman forward Kiran Lakhian and freshman point guard Denia Ebersole entered the game with about a half-minute left, but saw more action in the second half.

Bonnie led the team in scoring with 27 points amassed in just 17 minutes. Most of those points came from making seven of her 12 3-point attempts. Sara was close behind with 24 points in 26 minutes – the most time on the team. Her total included four of nine 3-pointers made.

Also scoring in double figures were Joslyn with 15, Taylor and Chiney with 12 each and Amber with 10. Jasmine was the only player who didn’t score, but she contributed four assists.

Altogether, the team was 14 for 25, or 56 percent on 3-pointers. Besides Bonnie’s seven and Sara’s four, the total included two from Taylor and one from Kiran, the first of her college career. It also upped Stanford’s score to 100.

Overall the team shot 62 percent. It made 68.2 percent – 15 of 22 – of its free throws.

When it came to rebounds, Tess pulled down eight, followed by Chiney and Bonnie with seven each, Erica with six, Taylor with five, Joslyn with four, Amber and Sara with three each, and Denia and Kiran with one each for a total of 53.

Tess blocked two shots, while Chiney and Kiran each blocked one.

The team had 31 assists, led by Amber’s seven and Erica’s six. The team also had 14 turnovers and eight fouls.

The first half ended with the score at 68-10. It was becoming so lopsided that Stanford fans began clapping every time Corban scored. Corban amassed most of its points, 21 of 33, from seven 3’s, primarily because it couldn’t get past the defense by Stanford’s taller players.

Another reason might have been that Amber proved so adept at stealing the ball, swiping it eight times, often resulting in fast-break points.

Yes, it was only an exhibition, but it proved to be an enjoyable preview for the fans as well as a good way for the players to ease into action and to learn where they must improve individually and collectively. The coaches also had a chance to size up the players even though the competition wasn’t nearly as stiff as what lies ahead.

October 20, 2012

Friday Frenzy offers quick peek at team

In a first for the Stanford women’s basketball team (at least since I’ve followed it), fans got only an abbreviated preview of this year’s edition during Friday Frenzy on Oct. 19 – a free event featuring both the women’s and the men’s teams.

Because of this new format, fans of the women’s team witnessed far less action than they did during the women’s open practices of previous years. And there was no dinner at Jimmy V’ afterward, when head coach Tara VanDerveer would introduce the players and talk about their attributes.

During this new event, the women, who apparently had started practice earlier in the afternoon, led off the activities with a scrimmage before several hundred fans in Maples Pavilion.

Coached by Tara and associate head coach Amy Tucker, starters for the white team were three starters from last year: senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, junior forward Chiney Ogwumike and sophomore guard Amber Orrange along with sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson and redshirt freshman guard Jasmine Camp.

They were up against freshman guard Denia Ebersole at the point, along with junior guard Sara James and three male practice players, all coached by assistant coaches Kate Paye and Trina Patterson.

Also on the white team were freshman forward/center Tess Picknell and sophomore forwards Erica Payne and Taylor Greenfield. Freshman guard Kiran Lakhian rounded out the red team.

Redshirt freshman guard Alex Green, who missed most of last season with an injury, was dressed but didn’t play. The same was true for redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef along with junior guard Toni Kokenis, the fourth returning starter. Freshman forward Aly Beebe is out for the year with a torn ACL suffered before the season.

Not surprisingly, Chiney scored first and led everyone with 15 points in two quarters as the white team won. She also had at least two steals. Amber was next with 8 points.

One surprise of the event was Denia’s play at the point. Even though she’s only 5’6” and a latecomer to the roster, she showed some leadership and confidence. Tess, the team’s tallest player at 6’5”, blocked one of Chiney’s shots.

Following the scrimmage, the team’s 3-point shooters were pitted against one another, starting with Joslyn vs. Taylor. Taylor had eight 3’s in 60 seconds, besting Joslyn’s seven and advancing to the next round. Next up were Sara and Bonnie, who tied several times before Bonnie advanced. Bonnie then outshot Taylor to win. During that final round, Bonnie fired off nine 3’s in a row, wowing the crowd.

Announcer Betty Ann Boeving, starting her 14th season at the Maples microphone, then introduced all the players and coaches. Chiney thanked the crowd for coming and said, “We are so excited for this year.”

Next up was introduction of the 16-member men’s team and their coaches. Four of the players and senior high jumper Jules Sharpe of the men’s track and field team engaged in a dunking contest, won by Jules. The four judges included Joslyn and Aly and two of the men.

During this time, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10, arrived and greeted her former teammates and coaches as they sat on the bench.

A shooting contest of layups, free-throws, 3’s and half-court shots featured six trios of one male player, one female player and one child. Denia, Kiran, Taylor, Bonnie, Jasmine and Joslyn represented the women in this contest. Bonnie and Jasmine made the only half-court shots.

After some T-shirts were tossed to the crowd, the women left at 7 p.m. as the men prepared for their scrimmage.

Note: There are lots more photos from Friday Frenzy in the Fan Pix blog.

July 13, 2012

Weekend with Nneka, Part 2 of 2

After watching Nneka Ogwumike, ’12, score a double-double in the Los Angeles Sparks’ victory over the Seattle Storm, hearing her and others speak, and enjoying a delicious dinner on July 7, a contingent of Fast Break Club members and other Stanford fans returned for another round on July 8.

This time the opponent was the Atlanta Dream, which the Sparks dispatched 79-63. Starting the game, Nneka scored 12 points, snared three rebounds, blocked two shots and made an assist and a steal in 26:13 minutes of playing time.

As it had the day before, the afternoon began in the Lexus Club at the Staples Center, where the Nneka fans heard a Stanford band recording and saw video highlights from her junior and senior years. Saturday’s dinner had an Italian theme, while this dinner was influenced by the Napa Valley.

FBC member Otis Watson, who served as emcee, organized the weekend with the help of Aminah Mills, Sparks account executive for ticket sales and service. She planned the menu, arranged for the fans to sit several rows up from the Sparks bench and to stay at the Marriott Downtown Hotel at reduced rates.

To show his appreciation for the Sparks’ efforts, Otis told the fans he would buy two season ticket packages for the next three years and donate them to the Sparks. He expanded on that commitment in a subsequent email to Aminah and Sparks president Mike Levy. He said the donated tickets could go to a nonprofit chosen by Nneka or Mike and the Sparks organization.

Nneka makes agent’s job easy, he says

The afternoon’s first speaker was Orlando CastaƱo Jr., Nneka’s agent. An attorney based in Newport Beach, he also represents other WNBA players as well as players in the National Football League. “I look at representing my clients as an attorney,” he said.

“I was very fortunate to get Nneka,” he said. “A lot of agents really, really wanted her.” Because she will do interviews, promote her sport and build her brand, “she makes my job really easy,” he said.

He told the fans that if they really love women’s basketball, they should try to get the WNBA to get more exposure and should go to games. “Stanford has an amazing alumni network,” he said, asking grads to check around to see if they can get Nneka a sponsorship or appearance.

She already has two trading card deals, one of them a first for a WNBA player. She also is a Nike athlete and led a basketball camp at her high school, Cy-Fair in Cypress, Texas, this summer. It was “a very successful event,” he said.

Coach foresees Nneka “getting better and better”

Orlando yielded the microphone to Carol Ross, Sparks head coach, who had only a little time before needing to return to her team. Carol has been with the Sparks since early January. She served as an assistant for the Atlanta Dream for three years and coached at the collegiate level for 17 years before that.

When she was named head coach of the Sparks, Carol said, she already knew that the team would have the No. 1 pick in the 2012 WNBA draft. The team’s choice was obvious because Nneka was the best player and the best person. “It made me feel better to know” Nneka would be there because of her character.

“She’s always going to be team first. She’s always going to bring great energy, great enthusiasm.” Unfortunately, “I don’t think we’re going to be bad enough to get Chiney,” she said, referring to Nneka’s younger sister, a junior forward at Stanford.

“There’s a natural growth that” comes with a new job, so Nneka is “going to keep getting better and better. There’s not one sliver of prima donna in her.” She just has to walk through the fire and avoid “the dirty little tricks” of some other players, the coach said. On her way out, she hugged Nneka’s mother, Ify, who had joined fans for the weekend.

Resuming his talk, Orlando said the top four draft picks in the WNBA get the highest rookie salary of $47,500. The top veteran pay is $105,500. However, players can make more money overseas, so agents try to place them with good teams.

One of his clients in that position is Stanford grad Kristen Newlin, ’07, who plays in Turkey. She makes more than twice as much as some of his clients in the WNBA, he said.

Another of his Stanford-grad clients is Candice Wiggins, ’08, of the Minnesota Lynx. One of the things he’s doing for her is assisting her with her business – she’s writing a biography of her father, Alan Wiggins, a professional baseball player who died of AIDS when she was 4. She’s also writing a children’s book, Orlando said.

Nneka’s mom pleased by Stanford fans’ support

Next to the front of the room was Nneka’s mother, Ify. “This is amazing that you would take time out of your personal time to support Nneka,” she told the fans.

Ify and her husband, Peter, emigrated separately from Nigeria to the United States. She was 15 at the time. They met in college.

By the time they had married and started their family (they have two more daughters, both younger than Nneka and Chiney), they didn’t know much about basketball until Nneka was 12. That’s when an AAU coach saw her and suggested that she try out for basketball. The family refused at first, but he was persistent, calling for six months until the elder Ogwumikes finally relented. He became Nneka’s AAU coach and went on to coach all four girls.

As a parent, Ify stresses that her girls should try to leave people feeling better. “They have heard me,” she said. “Nneka’s a role model,” a good sister and a wonderful daughter.

When it came time to choose a college, Nneka was highly recruited by schools in Texas and across the nation. Geno Auriemma of UConn visited three times, but “Nneka was never part of all the drama that comes with recruiting.” Instead the parents led the way. “We chose Stanford as a family,” she said, but ultimately it was Nneka’s decision.

It’s tough for a Texan to leave Texas, she said. When they visited a Texas school that was recruiting her, they were shown the two-bedroom apartment where she would live. When they visited Stanford, they were shown a small dorm room. “She literally stopped breathing,” Ify said.

However, the room wasn’t what they were looking for. “We were looking for someplace special.” The lessons learned along the way were better than a national championship, she said.

After she had completed speaking, Otis gave her a copy of the DVD that FBC member Lily Wong had compiled of game highlights from Nneka’s four years at Stanford. She also received a copy of a book, “Boosters Always Win! The Fans of Women’s Basketball,” a history of the Fast Break Club by member Harriet Benson.

Sparks outscore Atlanta Dream

Then it was time to go to the arena, where the Sparks were facing the Atlanta Dream, which was missing one of its best players, Angel McCoughtry, who had a sprained left knee. Nicky Anosike and Ebony Hoffman were in street clothes on the Sparks bench.

As they had against the Storm the night before, the Sparks led all the way – 24-19 after one quarter, 44-36 at the half, 65-50 after three quarters and 79-63 at the final buzzer.

Nneka had 8 points in the first quarter but sat out the second quarter. She waved to fans as she returned for the second half, played during the third quarter and sat out the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. When the game was over and players were tossing T-shirts to the fans, Nneka tossed hers to Otis.

After the game, the Stanford contingent gathered in the Shock Top Lounge for a post-game session. By then their numbers had dwindled because many had left for home. Those who remained could hear the booming reverberations from a post-game concert in the arena.

While waiting for Nneka, Otis asked Lily, who also is president of the Amy Tucker Fan Club, about that club. Lily said a group of fans decided to form a club for her because, unlike the other Stanford coaches, the associate head coach’s office has no outside window. It still has no outside window, but Amy is the only coach in the United States who has her own fan club, Lily said.

When Nneka arrived, she sat down to sign autographs, pose for pictures and say her final goodbyes.

FBC member Dave Cortesi, who took photos during the weekend, said they can be viewed at his online gallery

Weekend with Nneka, Part 1 of 2

Now that forward Nneka Ogwumike, ’12, is playing for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, her Stanford fans usually have to rely on occasional TV coverage or go to LiveAccess on the Internet to see her play, but not the weekend of July 7-8.

That’s when the Sparks hosted some 78 Stanford Fast Break Club members and other fans, including Nneka’s mother, Ify, for a weekend with Nneka. The event included two games at Staples Center plus two tasty dinners and the chance to hear from several guest speakers, including Nneka herself, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 WNBA draft.

FBC member Otis Watson organized the event in conjunction with Aminah Mills, Sparks account executive for ticket sales and service. Aminah also negotiated reduced rates at the Marriott Downtown Hotel. That’s where the Stanford team has stayed for the conference tournaments in March. Finally, everyone had a raffle ticket for a chance to win Nneka jerseys and Sparks T-shirts.

The Sparks players did their part by defeating the Seattle Storm 83-59 on July 7 and the Atlanta Dream 79-63 on July 8. Nneka started both games and contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds in the first and 12 points and three rebounds in the second.

Band adds to atmosphere

The festivities got off to a great start when the Stanford contingent reported to the Lexus Club for dinner and speakers on July 7. Upon entering the room, the first thing they heard was a recording of the Stanford band playing some of its signature tunes including, of course, “All Right Now.”

Then they could see that the TVs spread around the spacious room were all featuring highlights from Stanford WBB games during Nneka’s freshman and sophomore years. All of them evoked wonderful memories.

During Nneka’s freshman year, for example, the starting lineup featured Nneka along with Jillian Harmon, ’09, Jayne Appel, ’10, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen, both ’11. All five of those players are currently playing professionally. Jayne with the San Antonio Silver Stars, Kayla with the Tulsa Shock and Jeanette with the Indiana Fever were all top 10 WNBA draft picks, while Jill has been playing with a pro team in Italy as well as the New Zealand national team.

The video was created by FBC member Lily Wong from games that she had recorded during the four years. Highlights from Nneka’s junior and senior years were shown the next afternoon.

Otis served as host and emcee for both afternoons. He gave all of the participants yellow signs saying “We love Nneka” and featuring the Sparks logo. Designed by his wife, the signs were waved again and again at the games, especially the first, which was televised by ESPN2.

He also talked a bit about the history of the Fast Break Club. At one time, he said, the Stanford women’s basketball team couldn’t play in Maples Pavilion, but if it did, it had no lockers and no access to the weight room. To help remedy this situation, the FBC booster club started in the late 1980s. Harriet Benson, an early member, recounts the club’s history in her book, “Boosters Always Win! The Fans of Women’s Basketball,” published in 2003.

Otis presented autographed copies of the book to all of the speakers and made much of the fact that probably no other booster club has its own book. He also called Harriet the “matriarch of the Fast Break Club.”

Saturday’s first speaker was Mike Levy, Sparks president, who welcomed the FBC guests and called Nneka “a wonderful basketball player and an even greater person. … We’re looking forward to many, many years of having Nneka in LA.”

WNBA president cites players’ maturity

He was followed by Laurel Richie, who has been WNBA president for the past year after most recently serving as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Girl Scouts of the USA. Coincidentally, that night was Girl Scout Night at Staples.

She said the most surprising part of her WNBA job has been “the players – wonderful young women,” who are more mature than some other professional athletes because they’ve graduated from college. “We at the WNBA are showing the world what is possible,” she said.

As for Nneka, “There is something very special about this woman,” Laurel said. She noted that in one of the Sparks’ first games, Nneka wasn’t fazed when she was assigned to guard WNBA great Tina Thompson of the Seattle Storm. “She (Nneka) is delightful,” an example of what a woman athlete can be, Laurel said.

Looking ahead to the 2012 Olympics in London next month, Laurel noted that all 12 members of the USA women’s basketball team are in the WNBA. “It’s going to be impressive,” she said.

Asked about the possibility of a WNBA team in the Bay Area, Laurel said the league wants to expand but probably won’t do so next year. When it does decide to expand, it will consider whether the site has a fan base, owners with roots in the community and a space to play in. “If you can connect these dots, you can see how” she’s leaning, she said.

Another fan asked why more WNBA games aren’t televised. She said the NBA TV is supportive of the league, which is working on the situation.

The next speaker was ESPN commentator Rebecca Lobo, a UConn graduate, Olympics gold medalist and Hall of Fame member. Rebecca, who was to work at that night’s game, said, “Nneka is such a wonderful young woman” and a great representative of Stanford.

Rebecca first saw Nneka when she played in the Final Four as a freshman. As the mother of three girls and a boy, she wants them to see Nneka as an example. When Nneka is called for a foul, she doesn’t get upset. She just goes about her business. “She’s awesome” even though she made a bad choice by going to Stanford, the UConn grad joked.

On to the game

Then it was time for the fans to enter the arena and find their seats several rows up from the Sparks bench. The Seattle Storm already were short-handed because one of the team’s best players, Lauren Jackson, has been in her native Australia preparing for the Olympics. Then star guard Sue Bird was sidelined with a hip flexor injury and starting center Ann Wauters didn’t play because of a strained Achilles – leaving the Storm with only eight available players.

Nicky Anosike and Ebony Hoffman were in street clothes on the Sparks bench.

The Sparks held the advantage throughout the game, leading 28-17 at the first quarter, 41-33 at the half, 63-43 at the third quarter and winning 83-59. Besides her 13 points and 11 rebounds, Nneka recorded an assist in her 36:37 minutes of playing time.

All five Sparks starters, including Nneka, were in double figures: Kristi Toliver, 23; Candace Parker, 17; DeLisha Milton-Jones, 15; and Alana Beard, 10.

Official attendance for the night was 12,229, including many Girl Scouts, who were saluted by Nneka in a video before the game and another video by Candace during the game.

Overall, the atmosphere was much louder than at most college games as recorded sound effects blared even during the action. There were no cheerleaders per se, but a woman with a microphone often exhorted the crowd with an increasingly annoying, “I can’t hear you.”

After the game, the Stanford fans returned to the Lexus Club, where Larry Burnett, longtime sportscaster and the WNBA’s LiveAccess announcer for the Sparks, saluted the fans for “celebrating a rookie who’s had a major impact on the Sparks already. … She stepped right in and hasn’t missed a beat.”

He said that this was the first time that a college fan club had come to a Sparks game to support a player.

Nneka speaks to fans, missed Tree

Next up was the honoree herself. “Hi, everybody,” she said. “I was hearing everybody yelling at me. I really appreciate it. All I missed was the Tree.”

In addition to playing with the Sparks, Nneka said she is studying for the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, which is required for admission to most graduate business schools. Planning to apply for Stanford’s program, she has already won a Pac-12 postgraduate scholarship, and the WNBA helps to pay for its players’ graduate studies. She hopes to begin her studies by taking correspondence courses while playing in Poland starting in October.

She’s enjoying herself with the Sparks and especially likes playing with Candace, whom she called “the best player I’ve ever played with.” It’s also great to play with Kristi. She also appreciates the Sparks’ supportive milieu, which is much like the family atmosphere she experienced at Stanford.

However, it has been weird playing against her former teammates and other Stanford graduates. “When I’m going down the court, it’s all I can do to keep from high-fiving them,” she said. If they fall, her first instinct is to go to them and ask if they’re OK.

Overall, WNBA players are faster and stronger than college players. “Everybody is talented,” she said, but “I’m not trying to force anything.”

Sparks head coach Carol Ross “is all about defense,” while “at Stanford it’s all about the system.” In the pro ranks, coaches try to get players to do what they do best.

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer “was really great at getting me to understand adversity. … When you come into college, you can’t expect to be a superstar,” Nneka said, praising her Stanford coaches.

After she had completed her remarks, Otis – noting it was against the rules for him to give her anything in college -- gave her a copy of the FBC history book and the DVD with highlights from her four Stanford years.

He also asked Harriet to read excerpts from a letter by ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe, who had been scheduled to speak but then ran into a conflict. “She (Nneka) immediately impressed all of us” as a freshman, Holly wrote.

Finally, Otis gave Nneka a large bouquet of flowers in a vase. Noting that she had seen the “We love Nneka” signs, she posed for pictures and signed autographs.

Next: Sunday’s events and game

See also Event Photo Gallery

May 6, 2012

Thanks for the memories, Part 3 of 3

After completing the inaugural Pac-12 season with an 18-0 record and a 28-1 record overall, the Stanford women’s basketball team geared up for tournament time, a.k.a. March Madness.

Pac-12 teams compete in LA

It started with the Pac-12 tournament in Los Angeles. Because of its perfect conference record, Stanford was the No. 1 seed and earned a first-round bye before facing Washington on March 8 at Galen Center. A handful of fans and family members, along with the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree, gave the team a sendoff from the Downtown Marriott Hotel.

The game itself drew a sparse crowd, maybe 300 or 400, with most of them in red. Stanford kept them happy with a 76-57 victory. Senior forward Nneka Ogwumike led the team with 18 points, while her sister, sophomore forward Chiney, contributed 16. All 12 available players saw action, including freshman forward Taylor Greenfield and senior forward Sarah Boothe, who both had missed some previous games with injuries.

Arizona State, which had defeated Arizona after Stanford’s game, was the Cardinal’s opponent the next day, March 9, at Staples Center. Once again, there was a sendoff from the team hotel before the game, which ended in a Stanford win, 52-43.

It was hardly a stellar game. Stanford shot 29.4 percent and ASU shot 29.8 percent. Arizona pulled to within 6 points with a minute left, but Nneka made six of six free throws and junior forward Joslyn Tinkle added two more FTs and snared the final rebound to assure the victory. As the team left the floor, Joslyn turned to the Stanford fans, wiped her brow and mouthed, “Whew.”

Nneka had 24 points, including 10 for 10 from the FT line, plus 12 rebounds. Chiney pitched in with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Because the game was so close, only eight players got onto the floor.

Later in the afternoon, about 20 fans and some family members gathered at Big Wang’s sports bar for a post-game social.

The sendoff before the championship game against Cal at Staples Center on March 10 attracted a larger crowd. While the team usually gets into the spirit of the sendoff, the players were more animated than usual.

During one song, Nneka danced, Chiney played the bass drum and Joslyn led the band. Sophomore guard Toni Kokenis, who had joined the band for home football games, was in the back row playing the mellophone while sophomore guard Sara James pretended to play a trumpet.

Stanford emerged from the game with a 77-62 victory, but it was a physical contest that resulted in 16 fouls for Cal and 19 for Stanford. Stanford was better able to cash in on the fouls, making 14 of 16 free throws, or 87.5 percent, while Cal made 15 of 25, or 60 percent.

As she had done in the two previous games, Nneka led her team with 29 points. What makes that total especially memorable is that she made her first 3-pointers of the season. In fact, she made three of four, setting the crowd aroar. She also had 12 rebounds.

Chiney had 17 points and 13 rebounds for her third double-double of the tournament. Freshman point guard Amber Orrange chipped in with 13 points plus three rebounds. Completing the scoring, Joslyn and Toni had 9 each. Everyone got into the game, but only the five starters scored.

After the game, the team donned their championship T-shirts and hats. The tournament trophy was presented to head coach Tara VanDerveer, who held it up before giving it to Nneka to show the team.

Following the traditional net-cutting, Nneka received a trophy as the tournament’s most outstanding player. She and Chiney were named to the all-tournament team.

NCAA action for Stanford starts in Virginia

One week later, the team had received one of four NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds and had traveled three times zones and about 3,000 miles to play in the first two rounds in the Ted Constant Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

For the first game against nearby Hampton University on March 17, the crowd totaled 4,258. It included a smattering of Stanford fans along with relatives of players and coaches, including Tara, who has a sister and other relatives nearby, and assistant coach Trina Patterson, who has brothers and others in the area.

Stanford chalked up a 73-51 win over Hampton, but there was a scare early in the first half when Chiney fell awkwardly and limped off the floor to see trainer Marcella Shorty. She spent some time in the locker room, but returned to limited action, logging only 14 minutes of playing time and scoring 9 points.

Nneka had a team-high 28, followed by Joslyn with 16, including two consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half. Toni added 9, Amber 7 and Sarah 4.

Before facing West Virginia University two days later, on March 19, the team had a pregame sendoff from its waterfront hotel, where Stanford banners hung in the lobby and stars with the names of the players and staff adorned tiles in front of the entrance.

The contingent included a new-look Tree, who sported red fishnet stockings and red netting on the lower branches. A longtime fan explained that this was next year’s Tree, a woman. The present Tree, a man, had returned to Stanford, where the men’s basketball team was hosting and playing in the NIT.

With Hampton out, total attendance dropped by more than half to 2,055, but Stanford fans got to see their team win 72-55.

The game was notable for the guards’ outstanding contributions. News stories before the game had talked about WVU’s physical play, which presumably would focus on Stanford’s bigs.

Tara and her staff came up with a game plan that concentrated on the guards penetrating and shooting rather than trying to get the ball in to Nneka, Chiney or another forward. Consequently Amber finished with a team-high and career-high 18 points to go with seven rebounds. Toni added 10 points and five rebounds, while senior guard Lindy La Rocque came off the bench to add 4 points and a rebound. The three guards had a total of eight assists and no turnovers.

Not to be overlooked, the bigs played their part. Nneka had 16 points, Chiney 13, Joslyn 9 and Sarah 2.

The team flew back to the Bay Area right after the game because of finals week.

Two wins make for fun in Fresno

Travel the following week was far less arduous because the team had only a three- or four-hour bus ride to its regional site at the Save Mart Center on the Cal State Fresno campus. However, the games weren’t quite as easy, but still the team won both games and earned the right to go to Denver for its fifth consecutive Final Four.

Because Fresno is relatively close to the Bay Area, many fans drove. Others opted for the booster bus that made the trip to each game. People wearing Fresno State sweatshirts also flocked to the games. Many fans began their pre-game activities with food and refreshments at the Dog House Grill across from the arena.

Stanford’s March 24 game against South Carolina was preceded by the Duke-St. John’s contest, which Duke won 74-47.

When the Stanford team ran onto the floor, junior forward Mikaela Ruef and freshman guard Alex Green were among them. Rehabbing from surgery for injuries, they had not traveled to LA or Norfolk.

Inspired by the team’s popular “Nerd City Kids” rap video, which was created by Nneka and Chiney and which features other Stanford athletes, many fans were in nerd attire. They included the Stanford women’s water polo team in full nerd regalia with suspenders, pig tails, taped glasses and beanies. They switched to more conventional attire for halftime, when they were honored as the 2011 national champions. Back in their seats, they reverted to nerd mode.

Also on hand were the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and the new female Tree. This time she wore black tights rather than red fishnet stockings, but she kept the red netting on her costume.

The score was an uncomfortably close 33-30 in the final seconds of the first half when Joslyn caught an inbound pass while standing just in front of the South Carolina bench and heaved a long buzzer beater that upped the score to 36-30. It was the team’s only 3 of the night.

The score gradually widened during the second half, ending 76-60. Nneka was the game’s unstoppable heroine, scoring 39 points, more than half of the team’s total. Also in double figures were Toni with 12 and Chiney with 11 – despite playing with a brace on her right knee, which she had bruised in Norfolk.
Spirited sendoff before the Duke game

Two days later, on March 26, the team was treated to a sendoff from its hotel before the Duke game. The players and other students were in high spirits as the Tree high-fived some fans and the players borrowed the cheerleaders’ pompons during one song.

After the sendoff, some fans went to the gathering at the Dog House Grill, while others went to the arena to pick up their tickets. Once inside, they sought their seats and food. One popular item was ice cream made at Fresno State.

Some fans were worried about playing Duke, but Tara and her staff came up with a solid game plan that put Stanford ahead 40-25 at the half and 81-69 at the final buzzer.

Twenty-one points came from 3-pointers, thanks to three by Joslyn and one each by Toni, Amber, Taylor and Lindy. Twenty-nine points came from Nneka, followed by Joslyn and Amber with 13 each and Chiney with 12. Chiney led the team in rebounding with 17.

With the game well in hand in its final minutes and the crowd cheering, Tara cleared the bench. Duke still continued to press and foul. Its last foul sent senior guard Grace Mashore to the free-throw line, where she made both shots, setting off even louder cheers by the crowd and her teammates.

Then came a familiar sight as the players donned regional championship hats and T-shirts and Tara accepted the trophy. Chiney and Nneka were named to the all-tournament team, and Nneka was named most valuable player. Next it was time to cut down the nets before returning to Palo Alto that night.

Stanford proves to be a tough foe for Baylor

Even though their fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four ended with a semi-final loss to eventual champion Baylor, the team and its coaches had many reasons to be proud of their accomplishments in Denver.

For one, the coaches came up with an excellent game plan against 6’8” phenom Brittney Griner and her talented teammates in the semifinal match at the Pepsi Center on April 1. Consequently, the Cardinal held Brittney to only 13 points, compared with Nneka’s 22. Both All-Americans had nine rebounds to lead their teams.

The final score was 59-47 in Baylor’s favor, a 12-point difference. In the championship game on April 3, Notre Dame lost to Baylor 80-61, a 19-point difference, while allowing Brittney to score 26 points and grab 13 rebounds. Stanford had held Baylor to 36.5 percent shooting, while Notre Dame allowed it to shoot 50 percent.

Unfortunately, Stanford shot only 33.3 percent against Baylor, missing many shots that it might ordinarily make. Fouls also hurt Stanford, which made an uncharacteristic 17, compared with Baylor’s nine. Baylor made 19 points on free throws, while Stanford scored 5 – a 14-point disparity.

The score at the half was 25-23 in Baylor’s favor. The game was nip-and-tuck until about midway through the second half, when it began slipping away. Still, a rally seemed possible even though All-American Chiney had fouled out at about the 7:30 mark when Baylor was ahead 46-36.

The score was 50-43 at the 2:51 mark, but Baylor surged ahead. With only a few seconds remaining in her final collegiate game, Nneka went to the bench and hugged the coaches and all of her teammates as the crowd cheered. Another senior, Sarah, scored the team’s final basket.

When Baylor went on to win the championship game, it became the first collegiate team – men’s or women’s – to go 40-0 in the process.

Final Four festivities

There were numerous activities for players and fans even before the first tipoff. One of them was a Stanford pre-game reception and sendoff on the afternoon of April 1 at the historic Brown Palace Hotel, where the team was staying.

More than 300 fans and family members attended the reception, where they could help themselves to food, red Stanford rally towels, team posters, pompons and the now-ubiquitous nerd glasses.

The sendoff began in the hotel’s elegant central atrium. On the main floor, guests were enjoying tea in an open dining area while being serenaded by a classical violinist. Stanford banners hung from balconies.

The violinist took a seat as the band began to play on and in front of the staircase leading up from the main floor. Everyone then moved outside as the team began to arrive and assemble in front of its bus.

Little girls waving pompons danced in front of the team and Tree, and soon Toni and Grace were dancing with the Dollies. As “All Right Now” sounded, the team boarded the bus and left with a police escort.

Most fans arrived in time to catch the Notre Dame-UConn game, which went into overtime after ending 67-67 in regulation time. That’s when the Irish took over and won 83-75.

One last gathering at the spring banquet

The team gathered for one last official get-together, the annual spring banquet, April 18 at the Stanford Faculty Club.

Like the season, which included records such as a 32-game winning streak that was the longest in team history and an ongoing, nation’s best 79-game home winning streak, the banquet set a record with some 320 attendees. Some people had to be turned away because the room was filled to capacity, and even then, some staff members sat at a table on the patio.

The evening was filled with thank-you’s to everyone who had played a role in the team’s successes. It was highlighted by Tara’s introducing each player, starting with the three sophomores and continuing through the two juniors and six freshmen. “The six-pack is a special freshman class. Now is your time to step up,” she told them.

After introducing the coaches, she came to the four seniors, “a great class.” She enumerated each one’s accomplishments and contributions and gave each a chance to respond.

She ended with Nneka, who just two days earlier had been the first pick in the WNBA draft, chosen by the Los Angeles Sparks. “This is a Stanford first,” Tara said.

She recited a long list of Nneka’s other honors, including the Lowe’s Senior Class Award. The team captain’s 2,491 career points at Stanford are second only to Candice Wiggins, ’08.

The lighthearted Lizard Lung Award went to freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson and was presented by Chiney, last year’s winner.

Next the audience was treated to a video that started with the team’s initial workouts in the fall and featured each player in game action. It was packed with season highlights, especially the home win over Tennessee and some unbelievable plays by Nneka.

The evening ended with Tara looking ahead to 2012-13. “We are going to have a great team next year,” she said.

She also talked of maintaining the team’s legacy and the responsibility of the returning players, especially the seniors, to help the incoming freshmen adjust to the Stanford way of playing and conducting oneself on and off the court.

Defenders of the legacy can look at some stats from this 35-2 season: The two losses came by a total of 22 points, an average of 11 points. By contrast, the 35 wins came by a total of 781 points, an average of 22.3. Only four wins were by single digits (USC, Oregon State, Cal and Arizona State), and only one game (Cal) went into overtime.

After basking in the evening’s festivities, the returning players were scheduled for an early-morning workout the next day. The legacy continues.

May 4, 2012

Thanks for the memories, Part 2 of 3

After opening its pre-conference season with a 9-1 record and taking a brief break for Christmas, the Stanford women’s basketball team was ready to take on the Pac-12 Conference for the first time.

The former Pac-10 became the Pac-12 this season with the addition of the universities of Colorado and Utah. The expansion meant that instead of playing every conference opponent twice, each team would meet some teams only once. Traditional rivalries were maintained.

Stanford’s conference play began with a road trip to Southern California, where the Cardinal defeated USC 61-53 on Dec. 29 and UCLA 77-50 on Dec. 31.

2012 starts at home against the Oregon teams

The Cardinal began the 2012 with a 93-70 victory over Oregon on Jan. 5. It was an entertaining game in several ways, starting with some seemingly impossible moves by senior forward Nneka Ogwumike. She scored 32 points, snared 15 rebounds and recorded two assists, three blocks and two steals with no turnovers and only two fouls in 33 minutes.

When they weren’t marveling at Nneka, fans could applaud freshman forwards Bonnie Samuelson and Taylor Greenfield, who delivered six and five 3-pointers, respectively. Senior guard Lindy La Rocque, sophomore guard Toni Kokenis and junior forward Joslyn Tinkle each had one 3, raising the team total to 14.

Oregon State gave Stanford a harder time on Jan. 7, but the Cardinal prevailed 67-60. Once again Nneka led the team, recording 33 points and 16 rebounds. In the process, she joined the team’s exclusive 2,000-point/1,000-rebound club. The only other members are Jayne Appel, ’10; Nicole Powell, ’04; and Val Whiting, ’93. Nneka was the first to reach both milestones in the same game.

The team also got a big lift from her sister, sophomore forward Chiney, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Together, the sisters accounted for 53 of the team’s 67 points.

Stanford trailed 35-31 at the half, but fans enjoyed a reprieve from the tension during halftime because of Dog Lovers Day. It was highlighted by the annual visit of the popular agility dogs.

Arriving to cheers and a standing ovation, Nneka appeared briefly before fans gathered behind the bench after the game. Head coach Tara VanDerveer lauded her, calling her “one of the greatest players to ever play at Stanford.”

Fans also heard from Susan King Borchardt, ’05, the team’s new sports performance coach. She “was one of our most tenacious defenders that we’ve ever had,” associate head coach Amy Tucker said. As a former player, Susan makes helpful observations for the coaches. “It’s almost like having another assistant coach,” Amy said.

Susan is married to Curtis Borchardt, who played basketball at Stanford before going to Spain to play professionally. They have three children, who – in January – included a 21-month-old son and 5 ½-month-old twins, a boy and a girl.

The newest conference members hosted the Cardinal the following week, when the team defeated Utah 62-43 on Jan. 12 and Colorado 80-54 on Jan. 14.

Washington teams pay visits

Returning from the Mountain Time zone, Stanford hosted Washington State on Jan. 19. The Cougars had escaped being snowed in by storms pounding the Pacific Northwest, but they couldn’t escape being snowed under by the Stanford women, who prevailed 75-41.

This game featured the home debut of the revised lineup that Tara had instituted against Utah and Colorado. Continuing their starting roles were Nneka, Chiney and Toni, while Joslyn and freshman point guard Amber Orrange joined them. This was the lineup for the rest of the season.

The first half ended 31-20 after Joslyn stole the ball and got it to Toni for a successful layup with just 1 second to go.

Part of the team’s dominance can be explained by defense, which didn’t allow any WSU player to score more than 7 points. All 12 available Stanford players got into the game and contributed in some way.

Washington arrived next and fell 65-47 on Jan. 21. Although Nneka and Chiney were tops in scoring with 17 and 15 points, respectively, two freshmen were a big help. Amber had 4 points to go with nine assists – with each assist leading to at least 2 points – while Taylor came off the bench to make four of her five 3-point shots for 12 points.

Freshman guard Alex Green was the guest after the game. She’s “probably our shyest freshman,” Amy said. Alex was out of action because she was rehabbing from surgery for a torn Achilles tendon.

Cal extends game to OT

With a reported attendance of 6,075, Maples was rocking as cross-bay rival Cal arrived a week later and gave the team its toughest home game all season before falling 74-71 in overtime on Jan. 28.

The score seesawed through the early part of the first half, but Stanford edged ahead and went into the locker room with a 38-29 lead. Stanford widened the gap initially, but Cal narrowed it, allowing regulation play to end 69-69.

Chiney and Toni proved to be the difference in OT, with Chiney scoring 3 of her 27 total points and Toni recording 2 of her 18 points. Chiney’s point total and her 18 rebounds were both career highs.

Twice during the game fans were treated to a new crowd-pleaser – T-shirts fired from the Shockwave, a T-shirt shooting robotic cannon remotely controlled by a teenage boy.

More fun came during halftime with the introduction of Stanford’s 2011 national champion women’s soccer team. Next the video board showed highlights from Stanford’s Big Game football victory over Cal to claim the Axe. Then six Cardinal football players paraded onto the court carrying the trophy.

More football memories were evoked during the second half when former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh was shown in the stands. After becoming the San Francisco 49er coach in the fall, he had led his resurgent team to the NFC championship game the previous week.

Lauren Greif, special assistant and video coordinator, and Liz Rizza, intern, were the guests at the post-game gathering.

Desert proves fruitful for Cardinal

The Arizona desert was the team’s next destination. While the Cardinal took on Arizona State on Feb. 2, about 30 fans gathered at the Old Pro sports bar in downtown Palo Alto to watch their team record a 62-49 victory.

The game was much closer than the final score would indicate. The teams were tied 28-28 at the half and 40-40 slightly more than eight minutes into the second half. Then Stanford took over, thanks in large part to the Ogwumikes. Nneka poured in 22 points, while Chiney had 20, and each pulled down 16 rebounds.

Stanford had an easier time against Arizona, winning 91-51 on Feb. 4.

National audience for Nneka’s next milestone

A national TV audience got to see Stanford defeat USC 69-52 at Maples on Feb. 9 as Nneka surpassed Jayne to advance to No. 3 on the team’s all-time scoring list. She finished with 22 points, making her career total 2,143 at that point. Chiney was right behind her with 21 points. She also had a career-high and team-high six blocks.

During the half, the crowd saluted the No. 6 nationally ranked women’s lacrosse team, which was to open its season the next day. The team got in some shot practice by hurling mini-balls into the stands.

Fans also saw a new-look Tree with a brown trunk and face beneath scalloped, dark green fronds.

Feb. 12 was Pink Zone Day, and that’s where the team was as it recorded an 82-59 victory over visiting UCLA. Thus the Cardinal notched their 76th home win, their 70th consecutive conference win and their 19th consecutive win of the season.

The first half ended with Stanford on top 35-30, but the Cardinal pulled away in the second half even as UCLA upped its pressure. “This reminds me of a typical Stanford game,” TV commentator Mary Murphy told fans after the game. Stanford seems to get a feel for its opponent during the first half, makes the necessary adjustments and then, in the second half, “here they come,” she said.

After traveling to Oregon the next week, the team returned with a 78-45 win over Oregon State on Feb. 16 and an 81-46 win over Oregon on Feb. 18. Thus the team clinched its first-ever Pac-12 conference title.

Tara, Nneka, Joslyn, Chiney take to the airwaves

Tara, Nneka, Joslyn and Chiney talked about the team during a radio interview conducted at Gordon Biersch Restaurant in downtown Palo Alto on Feb. 20. KNBR’s “Inside Stanford Sports” was hosted by John Platz. Some 40 or so fans gathered at the restaurant to hear the interviews.

“We’ll keep it going. We’re starting to play our best basketball,” Tara said. She then singled out several players for praise, including the starting five and the freshmen.

Nneka was next up at the microphone. Noting that she had learned a lot from Jayne as well as the previous year’s leaders, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen, she said, “I want the younger players to be a part of that tradition.”

Playing with Chiney “is like playing with three other people rather than four. She’s like an extension of me,” Nneka said.

There’s a lot of pressure on Nneka and Chiney, Joslyn said, but it takes everyone to win. The players must “focus on having very good team chemistry.”

Teamwork was a theme for Chiney, too. “The person with the best shot is the person who’s open,” she said. “This year we’ve been focusing on every play, every possession.”

Colorado plays a risky but losing game

Colorado took a highly aggressive but risky approach when it visited Stanford on Feb. 23. It worked for a while in the first half, but Stanford dominated the second half and closed with a 68-46 victory.

Colorado’s aggressiveness resulted in 15 of Stanford’s 19 turnovers in the first half, but it also resulted in 25 Colorado fouls, leading to 27 Stanford points. By comparison, Stanford had only 14 fouls that led to 8 Colorado points.

Scoring her 13th point just before the first-half buzzer, Nneka moved past Kate Starbird, ’97, into second place on the team’s all-time scoring list. She finished the game with 23 points and a total of 2,230 for her career.

After tossing victory balls after the game, the players donned T-shirts commemorating their Pac-12 season championship. A Pac-12 official presented the championship trophy to Tara, who passed it on to the happy players. After posing for a team picture in front of a Pac-12 championship banner, the players left the floor with Nneka carrying the trophy.

Grace-ful note to Senior Day

There were many reasons to celebrate the team’s 69-42 victory over Utah on Feb. 25, Senior Day, but none were more rousing than the final moment. That’s when senior guard Grace Mashore made a 3-point shot, her first basket of the season, and set the crowd aroar.

Grace’s basket was a fitting way to cap off the win, the team’s 78th straight at home and Tara’s 700th at Stanford.

Amber had scored on Stanford’s first possession, while a stifling Cardinal defense forced Utah into shot-clock violations on its first two possessions. Utah was down 9-0 before scoring its first basket with 15:30 to go in the first half.

The T-shirt-shooting Shockwave robot returned during two timeouts, while Bloomer basketball at halftime featured older players following rules from the ’50s and ’60s. The video board showed Stanford’s 1896 team, which won the first-ever women’s collegiate basketball game 2-1 over Cal on April 4, 1896.

Also during halftime, the No. 1 nationally ranked men’s volleyball team tossed victory balls into the stands.

Nevertheless, the afternoon belonged to the Class of 2012. Grace, Lindy, Nneka and forward/center Sarah Boothe were honored in a post-game ceremony in Maples and afterward at a Fast Break Club gathering in Dallmar Court.

The post-game ceremony started with a video saluting each player and ending with a list of the class’s accomplishments to date. Then each of the four walked to center court accompanied by parents and other family members.

Each one, as well as parents and a teammate, had a chance to speak at the Dallmar gathering, starting with Sarah. Toni said Sarah is “like everyone’s big sister. … She’s always there for you. We call her Mama Boothe.”

Introducing Lindy, Tara referred to her signature play. It came at home against Cal her freshman year when she dove onto the floor for a loose ball, flipped it to a streaking Jillian Harmon, ’09, who scored an uncontested layup.

Joslyn said her teammates call Lindy “Coach La Rocque. She will be very missed.” Tara affirmed Lindy’s basketball knowledge. “We do talk about coaching stuff,” she said.

When Tara spoke of Grace, she noted “how important she is to our team.” Sophomore guard Sara James said Grace “makes me want to work even harder.”

Next came Nneka’s turn. “I just enjoy coaching Nneka every day,” Tara said. Nneka said she planned to graduate at the end of the term in hopes of going on to the WNBA. (She was the No. 1 draft pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in April.) “She has taught me so many, many lessons,” Chiney said. “She’s a mother to all of us.”

Two more games close the regular season

Even though the seniors had already had their special day, they and their teammates still had one more home game, taking on Seattle University and winning 76-52 on Feb. 29. It was a nonconference game with a team that’s transitioning into Division I.

The Redhawks gave Stanford a more competitive game than the score might suggest because of their solid defense and quickness. In the end, though, they were no match for the likes of Nneka with 19 points, Chiney with 18, Joslyn with 14 and Amber with 10. Bonnie came off the bench to add 12 points thanks to four 3-pointers – three of them consecutive.

Thus the team extended its home winning streak to 79 games. That means the class of 2012 is the second consecutive group of seniors to toss out victory balls after every one of their home games.

Nneka received a standing ovation when she went to the bench for the final time with 5:02 left. Grace was cheered when she entered the game with 2:23 to go.

After the game, the crowd was treated to a video with highlights from the season, ending with “Thank You Seniors.” With that, announcer Betty Ann Boeving signed off from her 13th season at the microphone.

Seattle coach Joan Bonvicini spoke to the Fast Break Club after the game and said of the Ogwumikes, “They’re the real deal.” Prophetically, she also said the team had a good chance to go to its fifth consecutive Final Four.

Winding up the regular season March 4, the team traveled across the bay to take on Cal. Also making the trek was a booster bus with 39 fans as well as many more who made their way to the UC Berkeley campus on their own.

Unlike the Cal-Stanford matchup earlier in the season, this one was much easier for Stanford, which won 86-61.

Toni led the Cardinal with 23 points, including three 3’s. Nneka added 22, while Joslyn had 16 and Chiney had 12. Bonnie had 9 points from her three 3’s.

Next up: tournament time