March 1, 2012

Fitting farewell to Maples

The seniors on the Stanford women’s basketball team had had their formal recognition a few days earlier, but they and their teammates added an exclamation point in their final home game by defeating Seattle University 76-52 on Feb. 29.

It was a nonconference game with a team that’s transitioning into Division 1. Nevertheless, the Redhawks gave Stanford a more competitive game than the score might suggest because of their solid defense and quickness. Thus the score was even, 18-18, when it came to turnovers.

In the end, though, the Seattle visitors were no match for the likes of senior forward Nneka Ogwumike, who had 19 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. Nor could they contain sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike, who was close behind her older sister with 18 points, eight rebounds and one steal.

Then there were the 14 points (including two 3’s), six rebounds, two assists, one block and two steals from junior forward Joslyn Tinkle. And freshman point guard Amber Orrange had herself a good night, recording 10 points, five rebounds, nine assists, one block and one steal.

Freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson came off the bench to contribute 12 points thanks to four 3-pointers (three of them consecutive), plus one rebound. Senior guard Lindy La Rocque had the team’s other 3, plus two assists and a steal.

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.

Even though it wasn’t an official senior night, the team and head coach Tara VanDerveer honored two seniors who have played an important role in the team’s success. They were practice players Austin Link and Paul Ockelman.

It also was a night to recognized longtime fans. With 14:36 to go in the first half, people who’ve been attending the games for at least 10 years were asked to stand. Well over half the crowd of 3,379 got to their feet and were applauded.

When those with at least 20 years of attendance stood for recognition in the second half, there still were a sizable number of standees. Even those with at least 30 years were an impressive contingent.

The crowd also included football coach David Shaw and his children, who were shown on the video board during the first half.

Halftime highlights included introduction of the softball team, ranked 10th in the nation, and a performance by the stamping, clapping, six-woman Stanford Steppers.

Fans got a preview of what might happen some years into the future when the Tree was joined by a crowd-pleasing mini Tree during a second-half timeout. “You can’t start training ’em too young,” announcer Betty Ann Boeving said.

Nneka received a standing ovation when she went to the bench for the final time with 5:02 left. Senior guard Grace Mashore also 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, Betty Ann signed off from her 13th season at the microphone.

The Fast Break Club convened in Kissick Auditorium to hear from Seattle coach Joan Bonvicini, who said, “Tara and her staff have done a fabulous job.” As for the Ogwumikes, “They’re the real deal,” she said, adding kudos for Amber. She said the team has a good chance to go to its fifth consecutive Final Four.

Formerly the head coach at the University of Arizona, Joan is familiar with Stanford, noting that attention to detail and high-achieving players help the team.

On the other hand, “Seattle University is a fabulous school. … I have really good kids,” she said, adding that she does a lot of her recruiting in California. One of her recruits for next year was a ball girl for Stanford.

Now in her third year at Seattle, she’s looking forward to its becoming a Division 1 team and a member of the Western Athletic Conference next season.

Besides coaching against Tara when she was at Arizona, Joan played against her in college. “I love coming to Stanford. You guys have built something classy. … We tried our best.”

She praised Scott Rueck, who became head coach at Oregon State last season when the team was struggling. She noted that it’s hard to play in the Pac-12 because all teams are measured against Stanford.

She then was joined by Tara, who called her a great coach and a great friend. “I was very impressed with how your team played,” Tara said. “It was a great game for us.”

Tara called Nneka “a great leader and a great person” and added that Joslyn “is doing some really nice things,” such as leading the Pac-12 in free throw percentage.

The two coaches then engaged in some friendly banter before ending the session.

Next up: At Cal on Sunday and in Los Angeles for the Pac-12 tournament next week.

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