February 12, 2013

Cardinal milestones in pink

Pink was the color of the day as the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Arizona State 69-45 on Feb. 10, Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

In honor of the occasion, the visiting Sun Devils wore pink uniforms while the host Cardinal wore their home white uniforms with pink trim, pink hair ribbons or headbands, and, much to the players’ delight, bright pink shoes. The Tree had some pink leaves, and the cheerleaders and Dollies wore pink hair ribbons. The referees had pink whistles.

Many fans in the crowd of 4,510 also wore various versions of pink. In the family section, Mike James, father of junior guard Sara James, sported the pink tutu that had been handed down to him via a tradition started in 2010 by the father of Jayne Appel.

Because Jayne was graduating that year, he gave it to John Pohlen, father of Jeanette Pohlen, to wear the following year, when Jeanette was a senior. In turn, it was passed along to Al La Rocque, father of Lindy La Rocque, who graduated in June.

Although the tradition had been to give it to the father of a senior-to-be, this time it was to Sara’s dad because the families of the two academic seniors, forwards Joslyn Tinkle and Mikaela Ruef, live too far away to be sure they could make it to the game. Thus it seems that Mike James will keep it for another year, when he’ll pass it along to the father of one of this year’s sophomores.

Besides the various pink touches on their uniforms, both teams wore black warmup shirts with pink lettering spelling out “Play 4 Kay.” It was their way of honoring the late Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame coach of the North Carolina State team who died of breast cancer in 2009. The Kay Yow/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Cancer Fund was established in her honor.

The Stanford day was sponsored by the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center. Facts about breast cancer were displayed on the video board throughout the game.

Team celebrates milestones

It didn’t take long for Stanford to establish dominance in the game. With about six minutes to go in the first half, the score was 22-16 and junior forward Chiney Ogwumike had already scored 10 points.

By the time she went to the bench with about three minutes to go, Chiney had recorded 26 points and 14 rebounds for her eighth consecutive double-double and her 19th of the season. She also contributed one assist and one steal in her 37 minutes.

Chiney’s point total included 6 from the free-throw line, where she was perfect. Overall, the team made 14 of 16, or 87.5 percent, of its free throws.

Another game milestone came from sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson, who scored a career high 19 points in 26 minutes. She made 15 of those points on five 3-pointers, her highest number this season. She added two rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Alex returns to action

A third milestone was reached when redshirt freshman guard Alex Green got her first playing time in 15 months after an Achilles injury. Playing three minutes, she had one rebound and took one shot, which she missed. As the ball left her hands, her teammates on the bench rose as one, waiting to cheer for her.

It didn’t happen this time, but when the final whistle sounded, several of them gave her a big hug. Even though she didn’t get much playing time in this game, she appeared confident and handled the ball well, portending good things ahead for her and the team.

And the final milestone – Joslyn had her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes. Defensively, she had four blocks and a steal.

As was the case against Arizona on Feb. 8, junior guard Toni Kokenis didn’t play because she wasn’t feeling well. Mikaela started in her place.

By the time the game was over, every player in uniform except sophomore forward Erica Payne had seen action.

Halftime entertainment featured the McGrath Irish Dancers from the East Bay. Ranging from perhaps first grade through high school, the girls went through a precision routine that involved intricate steps but no movement above the waist except when they joined hands at various times. This was a return visit for the group, which is always a crowd favorite.

After the game, fans gathered for a Behind the Bench session. While waiting, they saw the Dollies dancing with some children at the north end of the court before one of the Dollies took over the band leader’s baton while the leader joined the Dollies in a routine.

Dogs attract Tara’s attention

In the meantime, a group of service dogs in training and their trainers were at the south end posing for pictures with the Tree. When head coach Tara VanDerveer, herself a dog owner, came onto the court, she headed straight for the dogs to pet them and talk with their trainers. She later told the fans that the trainers were exposing the dogs to crowds and, presumably, noise.

When Chiney came onto the court to join two of her teammates in signing autographs for a long line of fans, she spoke briefly, saying “It was a fun game.” She introduced her uncle and young cousin from Fremont and said that her sister Nneka’s team is atop its league in Poland. Nneka, ’12, is enjoying a visit from their mother.

Tara began her comments by saying, “Kay Yow would be very proud of this team. They’re very unselfish. They’re about our team.”

She also said it was good to see ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, who has returned from the year’s leave of absence she took to spend more time with her family. She’s a 1988 Stanford basketball alum.

“It was really exciting to see Alex come in,” Tara said. She noted that Mikaela has another year of eligibility and might be able to return. “We’re hoping that will happen,” she said, but “it’s convoluted.”

“We’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of different people,” she said. “They’re like an orchestra. Different nights there are different solos.”

She has been getting some advice from her mother, who lives in Colorado and plans to attend the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle. She told Tara to bubble-wrap Chiney.

“Our team is mentally and emotionally very healthy,” the coach concluded.

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