April 26, 2013

Thanks for the memories, Part 3 of 3

Having won the Pac-12 season title, the Stanford women’s basketball team flew to Seattle for the conference tournament.

Although Cal and Stanford shared the season title with 17-1 records, Stanford got the top seed because, thanks to the three-game tournament in Hawaii in November, it had played and won one more game than Cal.

The tournament began easily enough as Stanford coasted to a 79-60 win over Washington State on March 8.

The game was notable for 10 3-pointers by the Cardinal, led by junior guard Sara James with five. Sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson added three, while sophomore guard Amber Orrange contributed two.

The day had started with a sendoff by the band, Dollies, cheerleaders, family members and a handful of fans at the team’s Westin Hotel. The family contingent included head coach Tara VanDerveer’s mother, who had flown there from her home in Colorado. Some other fans were at the Spectator, a downtown Seattle sports bar.

Although WSU head coach June Daugherty had had an emergency appendectomy the previous day, she was at the game. Assistant coach Mike Daugherty, her husband, was the coach of record that night, but she often left her seat behind the bench to join the huddle during timeouts.

One highlight of the game came within the first minute of the second half when redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef stole the ball, gave it to Sara, who passed it to junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who passed it behind her back to senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, who scored.

Chiney finished the game with 23 points, followed by Sara with 17 and Joslyn with 10. It was later reported that Joslyn had been fighting the flu since earlier that week. Chiney also had 21 rebounds, thus recording the first 20-20 game in the tournament’s 12-year history.

On to the semi-finals

In the first semi-final game March 9, UCLA upset Cal 70-58, thus ending talk of a Cal-Stanford meeting in the championship game.

In the second game, Stanford advanced to the championship game by defeating Colorado 61-47. Sara had her team’s only 3-pointer. Chiney finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds, while Amber had 13 points and Mikaela had 11.

Although the score seemed somewhat lopsided, it was an extremely physical contest, especially for Chiney, who endured more than her share of being pushed grabbed and shoved.

Amber comes through for championship

Apparently all of that physicality the night before, combined with UCLA’s rugged defense, took its toll on Chiney, who scored a career-low 3 points in the championship game March 10. It was the first day of daylight-saving time, so everyone presumably had lost an hour of sleep.

Chiney made the team’s first basket, followed shortly thereafter by a free throw, and that was that. After sitting out with two fouls for about 12 minutes in the first half, she returned for the second half. She had no more fouls, but she didn’t score. Still, she contributed 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the game.

Amber picked up the scoring slack and finished with a team-high and career-high 20 points. She also made the game-winning basket, slicing through the UCLA defense with 8.3 seconds to go.

UCLA got the ball and shot but missed as the buzzer sounded. It was assumed the game had ended, but the joyous Stanford bench players had to return to the sidelines while the referees checked to see if time had actually expired. It hadn’t.

Tess helps seal the win

The officials added .2 second to the clock, so UCLA had a chance to inbound the ball, but could score only if the player receiving the ball tipped it in. A basket wouldn’t count if she caught and shot.

While the referees looked at the game monitor, Tara inserted freshman forward/center Tess Picknell into the game. Her job was to stand in front of the inbounding UCLA player. She didn’t just stand there, though. The 6’5” Tess waved her arms and jumped up and down, presenting a formidable obstacle and sight-blocker for the inbounder

Tess succeeded, and the Stanford players hugged and screamed in celebration.

Thus the Cardinal won its seventh consecutive conference championship trophy and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Chiney received a trophy as the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Amber got one as a member of the all-tournament team.

Stanford hosts first two rounds of NCAA tournament

When NCAA tournament brackets were announced March 18, Stanford got the No. 1 seed in the Spokane regional. Because Stanford had already been scheduled to host first- and second-round games, the Cardinal got to play at home.

Action began March 24 when Stanford faced No.16 seed Tulsa. The Cardinal started slowly and allowed the first half to end 24-24. After that, the Cardinal took over and finished with a 72-56 victory.

Sara helped her team get going in the second half by scoring a quick 3-pointer, the first of two for her. Later, Bonnie and Amber each scored from beyond the arc.

Tulsa’s pesky defenders stole the ball several times and often kept Stanford from shooting until late in the shot clock, especially in the first half. Tulsa couldn’t contain Chiney, though. She finished with 29 points and eight rebounds.

Amber was the only other player in double figures, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds. Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield came close with 9 points plus three rebounds in 37 minutes.

In part she was filling in for Mikaela, who had started but played only 10 minutes, contributing eight rebounds. Tara later said that she hadn’t practiced for two weeks because of an undisclosed injury.

Joslyn’s time to shine

Playing in her last-ever game at Maples on March 26, Joslyn led her team to a 73-40 victory over Michigan in the NCAA’s Round 2.

She did so on 7-for-10 shooting, including a career-high 5-of-5 on 3-pointers, resulting in a team-high 21 points. She also had six rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

Chiney had 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Amber pitched in with 11 points and two rebounds. The other two starters, Mikaela and Sara, each had 9 points. Mikaela also had six rebounds. Coming off the bench, Bonnie had 9 points and one rebound.

Together, the team made a season-high 12 3’s, including Joslyn’s five, three each from Bonnie and Sara, and one from Amber.

Every Cardinal played tough defense, but Sara gets kudos for limiting Michigan’s leading scorer, Kate Thompson, to just 7 points, 5 of them from free throws. When Sara got some breathers on the bench, Taylor took over with equally good results.

The score was 41-16 at the half. In the second half, the more than 4,700 fans were in a celebratory mood as the team made one impressive play after another. When the video board showed a close-up of much-missed junior guard Toni Kokenis, the crowd roared while she blushed.

There was a standing ovation and prolonged cheering as the starters left the game to be replaced by the bench with just over 2 minutes to go.

As the team headed for the locker room after the game, Joslyn blew kisses to the crowd. The players then returned for a victory lap around the court, waving to their cheering fans.

Season ends in Spokane

It appeared that the team would pick up where it left off when it faced Georgia in a Sweet 16 game on March 30 at the Spokane regional, but Georgia prevailed 61-59.

The game started well with the Cardinal jumping out to a 9-0 lead at the 15:26 mark. The Bulldogs didn’t get on the scoreboard until nearly 6 minutes had elapsed.

Just over a minute later, however, Stanford lost one of its key backups when Taylor was hit in the left hand by a kicked ball that jammed three fingers. A preliminary X-ray showed no broken bones, but she sat out the rest of the game. (It was revealed at the spring banquet that one finger was broken.)

Stanford was ahead 34-27 at the half and maintained a lead until the 6:31 mark in the second half. That’s went Georgia pulled ahead 46-44. The score seesawed thereafter.

With slightly more than a minute to go, Stanford was behind 56-55. A free throw by Mikaela and a 3-pointer by Joslyn gave Stanford 59 points, but Georgia managed 5 points to gain the win.

Chiney had done all that she could, recording 26 points and 12 rebounds. Amber had 17 points and eight rebounds. The rest of the team contributed 16 points, with only 2 of them coming from the bench.

Still, it was only fitting that the last score would come from Joslyn, who was playing her last game as a Cardinal before graduating. Everyone else has at least a year of eligibility left.

Thus Stanford ended its season with a 33-3 record.  And once again, a showdown game between Stanford and Cal had been averted. Cal beat Louisiana State in the March 30 nightcap and defeated Georgia in overtime on April 1.

Besides Georgia, the only other teams to defeat the Cardinal were UConn and Cal, both of which went to the Final Four in New Orleans where UConn won the national championship.

Banquet pays final tribute to team

Fans had a chance to say farewell and thank you to the team at the annual spring banquet April 11.

For the first time, the banquet was held in McCaw Hall of the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center rather than the Faculty Club. The new venue was an improvement because it’s so much larger.

The dinner was served buffet style rather than sit-down, giving the 230 guests a greater choice of items and serving sizes.

The event gave the players a chance to dress up rather than appear in uniform. They also had a chance to mingle and chat with the fans.

After some introductory remarks by administrative assistant DeeDee Zawaydeh, who had taken care of the arrangements, Tara came to the podium.

She ticked off some of the team’s accomplishments during the year, starting with the upset of Baylor in November and continuing with the team’s Pac-12 season and tournament championships as well as its 20th trip to the Sweet 16. It set a defensive record, allowing only 51.9 points per game. (Marian Cortesi recaps all of the team’s records in Stories of the Season.)

Tara thanked the dozens of behind-the-scenes people who contribute to the success of the women’s basketball program.

Praise for each player

Tara also introduced and praised each player, starting with the freshmen and ending with the academic seniors, Mikaela and Joslyn. This process was punctuated with something new -- interviews with four players: Amber, Sara, Chiney and Joslyn.

When she introduced Chiney, Tara said that she had led the team in scoring at 22.4 points per game and in rebounding at 12.9 per game without fouling out. Her many honors included being named a WBCA All-American for the second year. She, along with sophomore forward Erica Payne, Toni, Bonnie and Mikaela, received honorable mention on the Pac-12 all-academic team.

Mikaela, who missed much of her junior year with an injury, will return next year while working on a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering.

Joslyn has already completed a double major in communications and sociology. During her four years on the Farm, the team compiled an 81-1 record in conference play, a 137-10 record, or 92.3 percent, overall, and went to three Final Fours. She was named to the all Pac-12 team, joined Stanford’s 1,000 point club and had 66 blocks.

Sitting in front of a framed red jersey with her number, 44, on it, Joslyn said she plans to continue playing basketball, probably overseas, and hopes to return to the Bay Area eventually.

A video showing highlights of the 2012-13 season climaxed the evening. Click here to view it.

With so many players returning next season and the arrival of five promising freshmen, Tara challenged the returnees to step up and lead the way. “The hungry lion hunts best,” she said, thanking everyone for coming and concluding, “Go, Stanford."

April 24, 2013

Thanks for the memories, Part 2 of 3

After compiling an 11-1 record in games against non-conference opponents in 2012, the Stanford women’s basketball team was ready for Pac-12 competition as 2013 began.

Colorado was first on the schedule Jan. 4 as Stanford traveled to Boulder and left with a 57-40 victory. As had been the case in the latter part of 2012, the starters were redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, junior guard Toni Kokenis and sophomore guard Amber Orrange.

All of them played at least 27 minutes and got into the scoring column except for Toni, who played 10 minutes and had no points.

With 20 points and 11 rebounds, Chiney logged her 10th consecutive double-double. The team recorded its 79th conference win.

It extended that streak to 80 on Jan. 6 when it visited Utah and left with a 70-56 victory. Even though she had a team-high 20 points, Chiney had only six rebounds, ending her double-double streak.

The starting lineup featured Mikaela, Chiney, Amber and Joslyn. Sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield started in place of Toni, who wasn’t feeling well, head coach Tara VanDerveer reported later. Coming off the bench, junior guard Sara James was second on the team with a career-high 18 points.

Battle of the Bay, Round 1

Still on the road, the Stanford women crossed the bay to meet traditional rival Cal on Jan. 8. Ranked No. 5 nationally after the Dec. 29 loss to UConn, the Cardinal pulled out a 62-53 win in a seesaw contest.

The first half ended with Cal ahead 31-29 on a fast-break basket at the buzzer. The score continued to go back and forth through about half of the second half when the Cardinal began to pull away for good. For the game, the score was tied 13 times and the lead changed eight times.

Chiney had a game-high 26 points plus six rebounds, while Amber contributed 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds. The other three starters – Joslyn, Toni and Mikaela – also scored. On the other hand, the bench added only 1 point, and there were no 3-pointers.

Battle of the Bay, Round 2

In a quirk of scheduling, Stanford and Cal met again on Jan. 13, this time at Stanford and this time with a different result: Cal won 67-55. Thus Cal ended Stanford’s 81-game conference winning streak.

Stanford had an 8-point lead at the 14:38 mark, but Cal began inching up to build a 39-31 advantage at the half.

Playing 39 minutes, Chiney had 18 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Toni was the only other Cardinal in double figures, tallying 12 points plus six rebounds in her 37 minutes.

The only other players to score were the other three starters – Amber, Joslyn and Mikaela – plus Taylor, Sara and sophomore forward Erica Payne off the bench.

At the half, fans saluted the Stanford football team for its Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin on New Year’s Day, its defeat of Cal in the traditional Big Game and its Pac-12 conference championship.

The post-game Behind the Bench featured a visit by Jayne Appel, ’10, who had recently returned to her East Bay home after playing professionally in China. Jayne will return to her American team, the San Antonio Silver Stars, for the WNBA season, which starts in May.

Commenting on the game, associate head coach Amy Tucker cited the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the first half and noted that “the game was very physical. …This was a tough wake-up call,” she said, but several issues are correctable.

Back on the victory trail

Shooting 52.9 percent, the Cardinal rebounded from the Cal loss by giving the visiting UCLA a 75-49 shellacking Jan. 18.

Tara tweaked the starting lineup, inserting Sara in place of Mikaela at the small forward spot. Sara played 17 minutes and contributed 7 points and three rebounds. Coming off the bench, Mikaela played 28 minutes and added 3 points and seven rebounds.

The biggest numbers came from Chiney, who led both teams with 25 points and 13 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. Unlike some other games, she often faced only single coverage, which she outmaneuvered. Other times, her teammates saw her alone under the basket and passed her the ball for an easy score.

Joslyn added 16 points and six rebounds. She made a 3-pointer early in the game, then sent the crowd aroar with three in succession during its final minutes. Amber had 15 points and one rebound.

After a relative dearth of 3’s, the team scored on six of seven attempts for an 85.7 percent average. Besides Joslyn’s four, Toni and sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson each had one.

As the team warmed up before the game, redshirt freshman guard Alex Green was in uniform for the first time. She had missed much of the previous season with an Achilles injury.

A week later, USC came calling and left with a 75-66 defeat. Fans already were in a good mood because the San Francisco 49ers had secured a Super Bowl berth with a 28-24 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Once again, Tara went with a starting lineup of Chiney, Joslyn, Sara, Toni and Amber. All except Toni, who had 5 points, scored in double figures.

The Cardinal had more or less cruised to a 33-20 lead over USC at the half and led by as much as 19 points, 43-24, at the 17:10 mark in the second half. The Women of Troy tried to come back and pulled to within 5 points twice, but Stanford prevailed.

Chiney was the standout again with 29 points and 16 rebounds. Joslyn made all three of her 3’s and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Also scoring 3’s were Sara, Toni and Amber, all with one each.

Prior to this game, Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA were all atop the Pac-12 with 4-1 records. However, Cal had beaten UCLA earlier in the day, so the Golden Bears and Cardinal moved to the top with 5-1 records as the first third of the conference season wrapped up.

Utah, Colorado visit Maples

Chiney and Joslyn led their team to a 65-44 home victory over Utah on Jan. 25. Chiney tallied 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Joslyn had 16 points and eight rebounds. She had scored the team’s first 7 points, all unanswered, and later knocked in two 3’s.

Joslyn also displayed sportsmanship about halfway through the first half when a Utah player crumpled to the floor under the Utah basket while everyone else ran the other way. When play stopped, Joslyn ran back to her and began helping her off the court until others from Utah arrived.

The evening had begun on a somber note with a moment of silence to honor John Pohlen, father of Jeanette Pohlen,’11. His memorial service had taken place earlier in the day. He died Dec. 23 at the age of 54. John and Jeanette’s mother, Cindy, attended nearly all of her games and endeared themselves to everyone. During the moment of silence, the video board showed a photo of Jeanette and her parents during the 2011 Senior Day.

The Colorado game on Jan. 27 ended with a 69-56 win for Stanford, but not before the host Cardinal overcame two scares.

Just as it seemed the fans could relax and soon see bench players take over, the then-No. 20 Buffaloes began chipping away at Stanford’s comfy 21-point lead about 5 minutes into the second half. Colorado narrowed the margin to 7 points with slightly more than 7 minutes to go, but the Cardinal began to get the upper hand and emerged with the win.

The second scare came at about the 8-minute mark in the second half when Chiney fell and stayed on the floor for a few moments. However, she got up to shoot her foul shots before going to the bench. With her ankle taped, she returned to action.

She finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Joslyn added 16 points and five rebounds, while Toni had 15 points and two rebounds, and Amber had 10 points and two rebounds.

For the first time this season, Amber didn’t start, but she played 36 minutes. Instead, Mikaela returned to the starting lineup, adding 2 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.

As they did in the Utah game, Mikaela and Joslyn got the crowd cheering with a slick in-bounds play. With about 2 seconds left on the shot clock, Joslyn inbounded the ball to Mikaela, who in turn passed it to Joslyn for an easy bucket.

“Mikaela and Joslyn invented that out-of-bounds play,” Tara said during the Behind the Bench.

Since it was Women in Sports day, the afternoon began with players from other women’s sports overseeing skills sessions in the west concourse before the game. Just a few steps away, fans could admire three women’s basketball trophies: the 2012 Pac-12 championship, the 2012 NCAA regional championship and Tara’s Hall of Fame trophy.

At the half, it was announced that over the years, Stanford women’s teams have amassed 42 NCAA championships and 52 national championships altogether.

Then new athletic director Bernard Muir presented the school’s second consecutive Capital One Cup for best overall women’s record to seniors from the golf, soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse, volleyball, track and field, softball and field hockey teams.

The guest speaker for Behind the Bench was TV commentator Mary Murphy, who had just covered the game for the new Pac-12 Network. “This is a crew that’s committed to women’s basketball,” she said.

Tara praised the team’s unselfishness and improvement. She also pointed out an interesting Pac-12 fact: “We are the team that has won more road games than anyone else,” she said.

Road warriors

The team improved its road record with an 86-62 victory over Oregon on Feb. 1 and a 65-45 victory over Oregon State two days later. The Oregon game marked Tara’s 400th conference win.

Chiney added to her double-double record with 22 points and 13 rebounds against Oregon. The only other players in double figures were Joslyn with 16 and Sara with 11. The three of them had started, along with Amber and Toni.

Chiney scored a career-high 32 points against Oregon State and added 18 rebounds for yet another double-double. As a result of her play in the two Oregon games, she was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the fifth time this season, tying a record.

Also in double figures were Amber and Bonnie, each with 12. Bonnie’s points came on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Toni played 27 minutes without scoring in what would prove to be her last game of the season because of an undisclosed medical condition.

A weekend for milestones

Back at Maples the following week, Stanford defeated Arizona 73-43 on Feb. 8 as Chiney registered her seventh consecutive double-double and her 18th of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

This time, though, she had lots of help from her teammates, as Mikaela recorded the first double-double of her career with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Joslyn added 15 points and four rebounds.

Once again, the starting lineup was tweaked. This time, Chiney, Joslyn, Amber, Sara and Mikaela got the nod. It turned out that this lineup would continue for the rest of the season.

After Mikaela’s first double-double in the Arizona game, more milestones were reached in the 69-45 victory over Arizona State on Feb. 10, Breast Cancer Awareness Day. In addition to the pink seen on players, cheerleaders, Dollies, Tree and even the referees’ whistles, Sara’s father, Mike, wore the pink tutu that had been handed down by several dads before him, starting with Jayne’s dad in 2010.

It didn’t take long for Stanford to establish its dominance. With about 6 minutes to go in the first half, the score was 22-16, and Chiney had already racked up 10 points. She finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds for her eighth straight double-double, her 19th of the season. Her point total included 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

Another game milestone came from Bonnie, who scored a career-high 19 points. She made 15 of those points from beyond the arc, her highest number this season.

Yet another milestone was reached when Alex got her first playing time in 15 months. Playing 3 minutes, she had one rebound and took one shot, which she missed. As the ball left her hands, her teammates jumped from the bench, waiting to cheer for her. It didn’t happen this time, but when the final buzzer sounded, several of them gave her a big hug.

And the final milestone – Joslyn had her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

At the Behind the Bench, Tara commented, “We’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of different people. They’re like an orchestra. Different nights there are different solos.”

Off to Los Angeles

Visiting Los Angeles, Stanford added a 79-55 victory over USC and a 68-57 win over UCLA to its resume.

The USC game on Feb. 15 saw Chiney earn the 50th double-double of her career and her 20th of the season, a record, as she amassed 26 points and 15 rebounds. Joslyn also had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Mikaela scored a career-high 12 points and contributed eight rebounds. Her scoring included her first 3-pointer this season.

The players were wearing their new black uniforms with CARDINAL instead of their names on the back.

Against UCLA, Chiney had 26 points and seven rebounds, but Mikaela had 10 of each, while Joslyn was close with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Easy win over Oregon State

With 6:39 to go and the score 78-39, the five starters relaxed on their home bench while their teammates closed out the game to help defeat Oregon State 90-53 on Feb. 22.

None of the starting five played more than 31 minutes, yet during that time, several more milestones were achieved.

For example, less than 2 minutes had expired in the second half when Joslyn became the 34th member of Stanford women’s basketball’s 1,000-point club. She finished the game with 11 points and four rebounds.

Chiney tied a Stanford record with her 51st career double-double by scoring 19 points to go with 12 rebounds. She scored 11 of her points by hitting a career-high 11 free throws (of 13 attempts).

She also made a play that could become the stuff of legend. While falling toward a photographer under the basket in the second half, she tossed the ball up in a wild shot that somehow went through the hoop.

She didn’t realize she had scored until her teammates pulled her up and told her. Her joy became even greater when she realized she would get a free throw, which she made. In the meantime, the team and crowd went wild as the video board ran several replays of those moments.

Taylor came off the bench to have the team’s second-highest point total with 18, matching her career high. Also in double figures was Amber with 15.

The Cardinal made 10 of 22 3-point attempts, led by Taylor’s four, plus two each from Sara and Joslyn and one each from Amber and Bonnie.

Mikaela, Joslyn honored at Senior Day

It was the last home game of the regular season, so it was time to honor Mikaela and Joslyn for Senior Day. Having been accepted in a Stanford graduate engineering program, Mikaela will play another season after red-shirting her junior year. However, she and Joslyn were both honored because they arrived at the Farm together in 2009.

The celebration followed the team’s 74-50 victory over Oregon on Feb. 24.

That game saw Chiney shatter two Stanford records held by her older sister, Nneka, who graduated in 2012. Chiney recorded her 52nd career double-double with 27 points and 24 rebounds. Her rebound total set the team’s single-game record.

She also became the sixth player to snare at least 1,000 career rebounds (1,010 to that date) and 1,000 points (1,600 to that date). Others who have achieved that milestone are Nneka; Jayne; Kayla Pedersen, ’11; Nicole Powell, ’04; and Val Whiting, ’93.

Amber was the only other player in double figures with 12 points plus one rebound.

Senior Day festivities followed the game as the video board showed highlights from Joslyn’s and Mikaela’s careers set to “Thank You for Being a Friend,” TV’s “Golden Girls” theme song.

Their teammates formed a reception line as Joslyn with her parents and Mikaela with her parents and grandparents walked to center court to receive flowers and hugs from Tara.

As of that game, Mikaela had played in 88 games and started 21. She had missed all but three games the previous season because of a foot injury. The game was Joslyn’s 134th.

Speaking for the team, Sara said she had become good friends with Mikaela and then Joslyn during her freshman year. “I’m really excited that she (Mikaela) is coming back next year,” Sara said.

Mikaela’s father, Mike, speaking for himself and her mother, Katie, said, “To raise a daughter like Mikaela is, in a word, challenging,” noting he had once lost an argument with her when she was 3 years old.

Tara praised Joslyn’s basketball instincts, energy and enthusiasm. Chiney, speaking for the team, said Joslyn is “such a special person.” Chiney said she wanted to frame Joslyn’s trademark red hair ribbon.

Washington trip completes conference season

Stanford wrapped up its Pac-12 season in fine style by going on the road to defeat Washington 71-36 on Feb. 28 and Washington State 72-50 on March 2.

Washington was missing two starters and one bench player who had been suspended for one game for violating team rules. Hence, only seven players were available.

Stanford fielded 10 players, led by Chiney with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Amber and Joslyn each had 12 points. Coming off the bench, Bonnie was second in scoring with 15 points, all from 3’s.

Against Washington State, 12 players got onto the court, led by Chiney with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Joslyn was the only other player in double figures, scoring 13 points plus three rebounds.

This game brought Chiney’s season total of rebounds to 381 to date, surpassing Nneka’s record of 376 in the 2009-10 season.

The win also left Stanford atop the Pac-12 conference with Cal. Each finished 17-1 in the conference, but Stanford secured the top seed for the upcoming conference tournament because it had one more season victory than Cal, thanks to the three-game tournament in Hawaii.

Next: the tournaments

April 23, 2013

Thanks for the memories, Part 1 of 3

Last year, coaches and fans didn’t have super-high expectations when they looked at the upcoming Stanford women’s basketball season. After the graduation of record-setting forward Nneka Ogwumike, there were some questions about how to fill the void.

Therefore, could anyone have guessed that the team would finish with a 33-3 record and yet another Pac-12 conference championship? Here’s how it all unfolded.

The team officially began its season Sept. 15 with the first meeting and limited practices until Oct. 1. After that, the team could practice 30 days until the official start of the season on Nov. 9.

Fans got their first preview during the team’s first-ever Friday Frenzy on Oct. 19. This free event involved both the women’s and men’s teams.

It began with a red-white scrimmage by the women, followed by a 3-point shooting contest that came down to a showdown between sophomore forwards Taylor Greenfield and Bonnie Samuelson, who emerged the winner by firing off nine 3’s in a row. Other contests involving both men and women followed before the women were done for the day.

In previous years, fans who made the trek to Kezar in San Francisco during the summer could expect to see the incoming freshmen and perhaps some returning players in the city recreation department’s Pro-Am games. However, no Stanford woman elected to play, so Friday Frenzy was indeed the first chance to see the class of 2016 – forwards Tess Picknell and Aly Beebe and guards Kiran Lakhian and Denia Ebersole.

Aly missed action in that event and the entire season as she recuperated from knee surgery. Redshirt freshman guard Alex Green and redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, both of whom had missed most of the previous season with injuries, were dressed but didn’t play. The same was true of junior guard Toni Kokenis.

Easy exhibition wins

Corban University, a Division II Christian school in Salem, Ore., got the first taste of Cardinal prowess when Stanford won 117-33 on Nov. 1 in Maples Pavilion.

The Cardinal captains were Mikaela, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle and junior forward Chiney Ogwumike. Returning to the starting lineup from the 2011-12 season were Joslyn, Chiney and sophomore guard Amber Orrange. They were joined by Taylor and junior guard Sara James. Toni, the other returning starter, was in uniform and took part in warmups but sat at the end of the bench throughout the game.

With about 15 minutes to go in the first half, head coach Tara VanDerveer began liberally subbing, giving everyone a chance to contribute, including redshirt freshman Jasmine Camp, who – like Mikaela and Alex – had missed much of the past season with an injury.

Vanguard was the next Division II team to visit Maples and emerge with a lopsided loss – 82-47. The starters were Joslyn, Chiney, Amber, Bonnie and Jasmine. Once again, Tara subbed freely, but once again, Toni was in uniform but stayed at the end of the bench.

Now the games count

The season officially began Nov. 9 when Fresno State came calling and left with a 72-61 loss. Besides extending the nation’s best home winning streak to 80, the game was an occasion to honor military veterans on Veterans Day and to salute the San Francisco Giants for its World Series championship.

The starters this time were Joslyn, Chiney, Taylor, Sara and Amber. Among those coming off the bench was Toni, who was seeing her first action of the season. Chiney led the way with 23 points and 17 rebounds, the first of her many double-doubles.

During a Behind the Bench session after the game, fans had a chance to learn more about 6’5” Tess and to hear Joslyn’s goals for the season. Tess, who hails from Medford, Ore., said “Stanford’s always been my dream school.”

Joslyn, who divided her summer between practicing at home in Missoula, Mont., and working at Tara’s summer hoops camp, said she was working on rebounding and being more aggressive in an effort to fill some of the void left by Nneka’s graduation.

First road trip is short

The team’s first road trip took it close to home as it visited Santa Clara University and left with a 92-57 win on Nov. 11.

Once again, there was a slight change to the lineup as sophomore forward Erica Payne got her first career start. She joined Chiney, Joslyn, Jasmine and Amber. During the course of the game, all 13 available players saw action.

Chiney led her team with 22 points and scored her 1,000th career point midway through the first half. She played 25 minutes and ended with 1,010 points on her resume.

Making history in Hawaii

The Stanford women shocked the basketball world by defeating Baylor 71-69 on Nov. 16 during the Jack in the Box Wahine Classic at the University of Hawaii. Thus the Cardinal ended the defending national champion’s 42-game winning streak and avenged a 59-47 loss to the Lady Bears in the semi-final game of the 2012 Final Four in Denver.

Mikaela got the first start of her career and was assigned to guard 6’8” Brittney Griner, holding her to a relatively low 22 points and six rebounds. Joining Mikaela in the starting lineup were Joslyn, Chiney, Toni and Amber. Chiney led the team with 18 points, followed by Taylor with 16, thanks in part to four 3-pointers.

This victory would vault Stanford to No. 1 in the national polls for the next six weeks.

Stanford followed up its Baylor victory by defeating host Hawaii 69-42 on Nov. 17, when all 13 available players got in on the action. The Cardinal wrapped up the tournament with a 92-68 win over Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 18.

Following that game, Chiney was named the tournament’s most valuable player, and Joslyn was named to the all-tournament team. Moreover, Chiney was named ESPNW player of the week for the first time. She had recorded 18 points and eight rebounds against Baylor, 15-17 against Hawaii and 25-10 against Tennessee-Martin.

Back to Maples

Back home, Tara said she could “this could be something special” after her team defeated Long Beach State 77-41 on Nov. 25, boosting its season record to 6-0 and its home winning streak to 81 games.

Tara stayed with the same starting lineup that had been so successful in Hawaii. Joslyn led the team in scoring with 18 points plus seven rebounds, followed by Chiney with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Amber flirted with a triple-double by recording 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds (all defensive).

The post-game session featured Chiney, who said that before the Baylor game, she told her teammates, “Fear no one.”

On the road again

The next road trip was relatively short, just up Interstate 80 to UC Davis on Nov. 30. It was another easy win for the Cardinal, ending 87-38. Even if Chiney hadn’t scored a career-tying 27 points, the team still would have won.

At the half, the score was 46-19, and Chiney had equaled the Aggies’ output with 19 points of her own, plus 11 rebounds. She finished the game with 13 rebounds.

Once again, Tara 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 Bonnie, who played only 3 minutes in the first half before heading to the locker room with what appeared to be an ankle injury. She returned to the gym early in the second half but didn’t play.

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

Visiting Gonzaga in Spokane on Dec. 2, the Cardinal notched a 69-41 victory, led again by Chiney with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor came off the bench to go 6-for-8 in 3-pointers, giving her 18 points, both career highs.

The game was special for Joslyn because her younger sister, Elle, plays for the Zags. Elle had 2 points and three rebounds, while Joslyn had 16 points and eight rebounds. On hand to cheer for both were their parents and younger brother, who wore T-shirts reading Stan-zaga or Gonz-ford.

At home on the Farm

The Cardinal returned home to defeat University of the Pacific 78-43 on Dec. 15.

Chiney played a major role in the victory with yet another double-double – a career-high 31 points plus 13 rebounds despite being double-teamed most of the time. Mikaela added career-highs of 13 rebounds and five assists.

Taylor was injured as she was fouled under the Stanford basket with 14:19 to go in the second half. She was helped to the locker room and didn’t return.

Another somber moment came at the beginning of the game when announcer Betty Ann Boeving asked the crowd to stand for a moment of silence to honor the 20 children and six adults who were shot to death by a lone gunman (who then killed himself) at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

On the lighter side, it was Dog Lovers Day with dog videos, film clips of movie dogs and photos of dogs belonging to fans, coaches and players. Bonnie was shown with her dog, which sported nerd glasses, complete with tape across the bridge. Agility dogs provided the halftime entertainment.

Success in the South

Stanford eked out a 53-49 win at South Carolina on Dec. 19 in a tight game. A basket by Mikaela tied the score with 53 seconds to go, and Toni clinched the win by making six free throws after that.

Chiney had 21 points and 15 rebounds, followed by Toni with 15 points. Taylor, who had been injured in the University of the Pacific game, played for 11 minutes but didn’t score.

The victory gave the Cardinal a 10-0 record to match its best start in school history.

The team upped that record to 11-0 on Dec. 22 by defeating Tennessee 73-60 – only the second time that Stanford had won at Tennessee.

The entire Ogwumike family, including Nneka, who was there to surprise Chiney, were part of the crowd of 13,016 and saw her score 21 points and snare a career-high 19 rebounds. Nneka was taking a holiday break from playing in Poland.

UConn gets revenge

Two seasons ago, on Dec. 30, 2010, UConn visited Maples with a record 90-game winning streak that Stanford snapped by a score of 71-59.

The tables were turned on Dec. 29, 2012, when the Huskies again came calling, but this time the Huskies snapped the Cardinal’s record home winning streak at 82 in a 61-35 blowout.

A much closer game had been expected because Stanford was still ranked No. 1 in national polls, while UConn was No. 2. UConn would go on to win the NCAA national championship.

While the Huskies shot only 37.5 percent, Stanford was even worse at 19.3 percent in the face of UConn’s smothering defense.

Chiney did her part, scoring 18 points and 13 rebounds, but only four other Cardinal players got into the scoring column.

Next: Conference play begins

April 14, 2013

Banquet pays final tribute to team

Fans had a final chance to say farewell and thank you to the 2012-13 Stanford women’s basketball team during the annual spring banquet April 11.

For the first time, the banquet was held in McCaw Hall of the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center rather than the Faculty Club. The new venue proved to be an improvement because it’s roomier. So many people attended last year’s banquet that some of the staff had to sit outside on the patio.

Another difference this year was that the dinner was served buffet style rather than sit-down, allowing the 230 guests a greater choice of items and serving sizes. Thanks to Jimmy V and his crew, the main course choices of filet of beef, filet of salmon, chicken Madeira and stuffed Portobellini mushrooms were well received. The social hour featured tasty appetizers like giant prawns.

Still another difference was that wine and soft drinks were included gratis throughout the event.

As she has in the past, administrative assistant DeeDee Zawaydeh took care of the arrangements and served as emcee before handing the microphone over to head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Tara commented that when she arrived for the dinner, she saw some familiar faces but couldn’t quite place them at first because the players were so dressed up. “This is a group that cleans up really well,” she said.

“Some incredible highs” this year

This event celebrates “a great year (with) some incredible highs,” she said. Although many fans had a modest outlook for the season after the graduation of the great Nneka Ogwumike last year, “Jos and her teammates did not get that memo,” Tara said, referring to senior forward Joslyn Tinkle.

She cited some of the team’s accomplishments, starting with the defeat of defending national champion Baylor in November and doing so without fouling its star, Brittney Griner.

She continued with the team’s Pac-12 season and tournament championships and its 20th trip to the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen. It set a defensive record, allowing only 51.9 points per game, she said, as she ticked off additional records. (Marian Cortesi recaps all of them in Stories of the Season on this website.)

Many people to thank

Tara began thanking all the behind-the-scenes people who were responsible for making the season a success, starting with first-year athletic director Bernard Muir, other administrators and scholarship donors. One of Bernard’s two daughters was a ball girl for the team. She and her sister arrived later after their mom had picked them up.

In keeping with tradition, Tara introduced each player, starting with the freshmen, including managers Megan Ferowich and Tiarra Little.

She praised walk-on guard Denia Ebersole as “a very hard worker” and guard Kiran Lakhian as a Texan who made “a great decision to come to Stanford.”

Forward Aly Beebe didn’t play this season because she suffered a second torn ACL last spring and underwent reconstructive surgery. She has been cleared for limited workouts. It is hoped that she’ll be ready to play next season.

Forward Tess Picknell came to understand the difference between high school and elite college play. Unlike everyone else on the team, she was able to practice every day. She’s expected to have a great sophomore year, Tara said.

Sophomores in the spotlight

After more thank-you’s, it was time to introduce the sophomores, starting with guard Jasmine Camp, who missed most of her freshman year with an injury. “It’s great to have Jas back and healthy,” Tara said, adding that she brings great energy to the team.

Guard Alex Green also missed much of her freshman year and part of this season because of an injury, but she was cleared to play during the winter. She was a great defensive player in high school, Tara said.

Forward Erica Payne is a “high-energy” player and an “excellent student.” who earned an honorable mention for the Pac-12 all-academic team.

Forward Bonnie Samuelson, a great 3-point shooter, earned the same honor. Forward Taylor Greenfield, who had a taped finger that was broken in the Georgia game, “had some spectacular games,” including Gonzaga and Baylor, Tara said.

Point guard Amber Orrange was “one of our most improved players” and was named to the All Pac-12 team.

Amber speaks up

In a new twist for the banquet, Amber was given a microphone so that Tara could interview her. Tara noted that when the team huddles during timeouts, she looks at Amber to see what she thinks about suggested plays.

When Tara asked what she did to improve last summer, Amber said, “It was just getting in the gym every day.” Her coaches and teammates encouraged her, too.

More thank-you’s followed, including interns Katie Schlein and Abby Ganzon, who spent much of their time assisting video coordinator Lauren Greif. Along with her team duties, Lauren has been going to graduate school and will complete her degree this year, Tara said.

Next in line for introductions were the juniors, starting with guard Toni Kokenis, who missed part of the season with an undisclosed medical condition. “It became much tougher (for the team) without Toni,” Tara said, but “we all hope to see her back on the court next year.” Toni was another player who earned an honorable mention for the Pac-12 all-academic team.

Sara has a story to tell

Guard Sara James became a starter and a leader during the season. Handing her a microphone, Tara asked her to repeat a story she had told Tara over the phone two summers ago.

It seems that when Sara was working on her ball handling skills in the garage of her family’s Sierra foothills home, she found a rattlesnake. Her father, Mike, took care of the problem.

“She’s very dedicated,” Tara said, adding that during the offseason, Sara refined her 3-point shot, which she works on every day. “Sara has great discipline and a great work ethic,” Tara concluded.

As for forward Chiney Ogwumike, last year she was Nneka’s younger sister. This year Nneka is her older sister, Tara said.

Chiney leads the way

After Nneka graduated, “I was a little nervous,” Tara said, but Chiney came on to lead the team in scoring at 22.4 points per game and in rebounding at 12.9 per game, among many other accomplishments (see Stories of the Season), while never fouling out.

Her honors included being named a WBCA All-American for the second year. She was among the five Stanford players who earned honorable mention on the Pac-12 all-academic team

“I have wonderful teammates who support me,” Chiney said when Tara interviewed her. An international studies major, Chiney will spend this spring quarter as an intern for the minister of petroleum in Nigeria. She also is fund-raising for a charity that wants to build basketball courts in Nigeria, her parents’ native land.

“I love being around the basket,” she said, but during the summer, she plans to work on her footwork and her outside shots.

The coaches will be allowed to spend some time with the players for the first time this summer, so everyone will be in summer school, Tara said.

Tara thanks coaches

Speaking of the coaches, she began thanking her staff, starting with second-year assistant coach Trina Patterson, who was there with her husband, Carl.

“This year she really took over in a different way,” Tara said. She “did a great job scouting, recruiting” and working with the posts, especially Tess. “Our team is really fortunate to have you as a coach,” Tara told her.

Assistant coach Kate Paye was born in Stanford Hospital and graduated from Stanford, where she played basketball. “It’s great to have Kate on our staff,” Tara said, noting that she’s very creative in devising plays.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker “has the best record at Stanford,” going undefeated the year that Tara took a leave of absence to coach the USA team to a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. She coordinates recruiting and works with the admissions office. Although she doesn’t scout per se, she watches all of the tapes and is a great tactician, Tara said.

Kudos for seniors

Finally it was time for the seniors, starting with forward Mikaela Ruef. Because Mikaela red-shirted during her junior year, she has another year of eligibility and will return next season.

“Mikaela Ruef is the main reason why our team is 33-3,” Tara said, noting that Mikaela, who wears 3 on her jersey, “is crazy about the number 3.” She played in every game this season and averaged 6.6 points per game (a multiple of 3).

When Mikaela was working out last summer, then-strength and conditioning coach Susan Borchardt, ’05, raved about how hard she worked. “The light bulb went on,” Tara said.

Mikaela started for the first time in the Baylor game and was assigned to guard Griner because Chiney and Joslyn couldn’t get in foul trouble. She stayed in the starting lineup for the rest of the season.

She’s working on her master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. In keeping with tradition, the printed program includes notes from all of the players to the seniors. Nearly every player mentioned how smart and helpful Mikaela is. She was among the Stanford players who earned an honorable mention on the all Pac-12 academic team.

Joslyn completes double major

Joslyn came last. She has already completed a double major in communications and sociology. During her four years on the Farm, the team compiled an 81-1 record in conference play, a 137-10 record (92.3 percent) overall and went to three Final Fours. She was named to the all Pac-12 team and joined Stanford’s 1,000-point club this season. A versatile player, she had 66 blocks.

“She has great basketball instincts,” Tara said. “She brought great energy and enthusiasm every day” – traits stressed by her teammates in their tributes. Her “graduation creates a big void,” Tara said.

Sitting in front of a framed red jersey with her number, 44, Joslyn said, “I’m eternally grateful to have worn this jersey for four years. This jersey represents four wonderful years here.”

She plans to continue playing basketball, probably overseas, and hopes to return to this area eventually.

Video encapsulates the season

A video created by Lauren and video producer Bud Anderson climaxed the evening. It started by showing Nneka going No. 1 to the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA draft last April, then featured game clips of each player. Next came game highlights from throughout the season, followed by a listing of the team’s impressive records.

“We have outstanding accomplishments,” Tara said after the lights went on. Discussing the just-concluded collegiate season, she noted “more parity, which I believe is a good thing except when it comes to us.”

The team handled adversity well. “We never had excuses” or blamed anyone. The NCAA tournament saw some teams come apart at the seams, but this team is mature, one that strives for excellence. “We want a team of givers,” she said.

With so many players returning next season and the arrival of five promising freshmen, “stick around for our second half,” Tara said. She challenged the returning players to step up and lead the way. “The hungry lion hunts best,” she said, thanking everyone for coming and concluding, “Go, Stanford.”

After the formal program had ended, the team gathered at the podium to pose for pictures. Besides being dressed up, the players had graciously chatted with fans throughout the evening.

Now it’s time to wait until early November, when exhibition games begin, followed by the real thing.

April 5, 2013

The season ends in Spokane

The Stanford women’s basketball team’s hopes for a record sixth consecutive trip to the Final Four ended March 30 when Georgia defeated the Cardinal 61-59 in the NCAA regional at the Spokane Arena.

Even though this Sweet 16 game didn’t turn out as hoped, head coach Tara VanDerveer and junior forward Chiney Ogwumike put things into perspective during the post-game news conference when they pointed out that Stanford ended the season with a 33-3 record.

What they couldn’t point out at the time was that Stanford’s only other losses came at the hands of two of the teams headed for the Final Four – Cal and UConn. Cal earned its trip to New Orleans by defeating Louisiana State 73-63 in the March 30 nightcap, then topping Georgia 65-62 in overtime April 1.

Chiney did all she could for Stanford, recording 26 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, one block and two steals in 40 minutes. Also playing the full 40 minutes, sophomore point guard Amber Orrange was the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points plus eight rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Early minutes look good

The game started in a promising fashion with Chiney scoring the first basket and the Cardinal jumping out to a 9-0 lead at the 15:26 mark. The Bulldogs didn’t get on the scoreboard until nearly six minutes had elapsed.

Just over a minute later, however, Stanford lost a key backup when sophomore Taylor Greenfield went to the floor in pain. She had been hit in the left hand by a kicked ball that jammed three fingers. A subsequent X-ray showed no broken bones, but she had to sit out for the rest of the game.

Stanford was already missing a key player, junior guard Toni Kokenis, who hadn’t played for several weeks because of an undisclosed medical condition. She was at the game, but could only cheer for her teammates.

The first half ended with Stanford up 34-27. The team maintained a lead until the 6:31 mark in the second half, when Georgia went up 46-44. The score seesawed thereafter.

Hopes dim in final seconds

With slightly more than a minute to go and Stanford behind 56-55, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. A free throw by redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef and a 3-pointer by senior forward Joslyn Tinkle raised Stanford’s point total to 59, but Georgia had managed 5 points to give it the winning edge.

It was only fitting that the last score would come from Joslyn, who was playing her last game as a Cardinal. Everyone else is expected to return next season.

While Chiney and Amber combined for 43 points, the rest of the team managed only 16. Only 2 of those points came from the bench.

Nevertheless, Stanford out-rebounded Georgia 46-42. Both had eight assists, but Stanford had 10 turnovers to Georgia’s seven and three steals to Georgia’s five. Another telling stat – Stanford had 15 fouls leading to 11 Georgia points, while Georgia had only eight fouls leading to 4 Stanford points.

Upon returning home, I watched a recording of the game. The outcome wasn’t any different, of course, but I had to admire Stanford’s resiliency and its unstinting effort. If just one or two plays had gone the other way, it would have been Stanford in the Elite Eight game against Cal. Then, who knows?

Team surpassed early expectations

In the post-game press conference, Tara said something to the effect that if someone had said at the beginning of the season that Stanford would have a 33-3 record, she would have said, “How?”

She couldn’t have predicted how much the team would improve over the season. The credit goes to the players’ hard work as well as to Tara and her staff for helping them improve.

Chiney also deserves a ton of credit for her outstanding play, which has led to her being named an All-American, among other honors.

Fans will have one last chance to see this team together at the spring banquet April 11.