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