February 24, 2015

Sadness and salutes on Senior Day

The day started with a festive air as moms and dads of the six seniors on the Stanford women’s basketball team hugged and posed for pictures at Maples Pavilion on Feb. 22.

It ended on two sad notes. First, the team lost to Cal 63-53. Second, the seniors played the final regular home game of their Stanford careers. Fans, their families and their teammates paid tribute to them in a ceremony after the game. (Stanford could host first- and second-round games of the NCAA tournament if it’s at least a four seed.)

But back to the festive part. Several people took advantage of the warm, sunny day to have a tailgate lunch before the 1 p.m. tipoff. More than 5,200 people trooped into Maples for the game, one of the larger crowds this season.

Everyone in the pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

Because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Day, many fans were decked out in pink. In honor of the occasion, Harry Payne, father of senior forward Erica Payne, wore the pink tutu that has been passed down from one senior dad to another ever since it was first worn by Jayne Appel’s father in 2010.

The Cal players wore pink uniforms, while the Stanford players’ white uniforms were trimmed in pink. During warmups they wore T-shirts saying, “Together We Fight,” apparently referring to breast cancer.

The Cal band was tucked into the upper corner across from the Stanford band, and a bloc of Cal fans sat below the upper broadcast booth. Cal’s four seniors received flowers from Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer just before tipoff.

The starting lineup featured freshman forward Kaylee Johnson, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson, sophomore guards Karlie Samuelson and Lili Thompson, and senior guard Amber Orrange.

Brittany shines again

Cal got off to a fast start, leading 3-7 at the 15:41 mark. That’s when freshman guard Brittany McPhee, who was so instrumental in the team’s 59-47 victory over Cal at Cal on Feb. 18, got into the game.

She wound up playing 36 minutes, more than any other Cardinal, and scoring a game-high, career-high 24 points. She also had a team-high six rebounds. Based on her play in the two Cal games, she was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for the first time on Feb. 23. Kaylee had earned the honor the previous week.

The first half ended with Stanford ahead 29-27, but the Bears outscored the Cardinal 36-24 in the second half.

Turnovers, fouls and rebounds contributed to Stanford’s loss. The team had 17 turnovers, several of them shot-clock violations. Cal had 13 TO’s. Cal outrebounded Stanford 35-31.

The refs called only nine fouls on Cal, while whistling Stanford for 16, with the final ones coming as an effort to get the ball back. Cal made 13 points from its 20 trips to the charity stripe. Brittany got Stanford’s three shots and made two. That’s an 11-point difference, just one more than Cal’s margin of victory.

Cal also made eight of 19 3’s, while Stanford made five of 15. Brittany had two. Bonnie, Amber and Karlie had one each.

The only other Stanford player in double figures was Amber with 11, plus five rebounds, three assists and one steal.

The game’s featured player was sophomore guard Briana Roberson. One of the facts about her displayed on the video board is that she was born on her mother’s birthday.

The trivia question of the day asked what the seniors’ four-year record was to date: 102-35, 121-16 or 112-25. The answer was 121-16. Now it’s 121-17.

Seniors, families take center court

The post-game tribute to the seniors started with a video featuring highlights from each one’s career. Flanked by the rest of the team, each one was individually escorted to center court by her family to receive flowers and a hug from Tara. Guard Jasmine Camp led off with her parents, Keith and Deborah; followed by guard Alex Green with her mother, Linda and an aunt.

Forward Taylor Greenfield was escorted by her parents, Kris and Angie, and Erica was with her father and mother, Laurie. Bonnie was joined by Karlie and the Samuelson parents, Jon and Karen. Amber was with her parents, James and Elexa, her grandmother and sister.

Before the ceremony continued, associate head coach Amy Tucker asked Dave and Marian Cortesi to come to the floor. Dave and Marian have been running the Fast Break Club website for 10 years, but they plan to retire the site after the season unless someone comes forward to replace them. Jasmine and Erica then gave them a basketball autographed by the coaches and a bag with two Stanford fleece jackets.

When a fan asked about longtime announcer Betty Ann (Boeving) Hagenau, Amy deferred to Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations. Eileen said that Betty Ann is still recuperating at home from a serious bicycle accident, but that she appreciates the fans’ good wishes.

Then came the only comment about the game, when Amy said, “That was a tough one. It doesn’t reflect the season that we’ve had.” She added, “Brittany had a grand game.”

Speaking for the team, Lili thanked the seniors for all they’ve done and said, “We love you all.”

Seniors thank fans, praise teammates

“It goes really fast,” Tara said before each senior had a chance to speak. All six of them expressed their love for their teammates and thanked the fans for their support. Taylor’s comment was typical. “Thanks for sticking with the senior class for four years,” she said.

Taylor, a science, technology and society (STS) major, wants to take two years off before going to law school. Her father, Kris, told the crowd that when Taylor started at Stanford, she expected to be a dominant player, just as she was in high school. Then she found out that everyone else had been a dominant player, too. He said she told him, “I can’t even get open.”

Amber, an STS major, hopes to play professionally here or overseas and maybe go to grad school after that. Answering a young fan, she said her favorite thing about basketball is dribbling.

Jasmine, who majors in psychology, is looking for a job and applying for grad school and might eventually go into coaching. Although she has another year of eligibility, she said she doesn’t think she’ll use it. Her advice to a young girl was to “work hard and never lose sight of why you love this game.” One of her main jobs as co-captain, along with classmates Amber and Erica, is “maintaining a solid team,” she said. Her father aptly said of her, “She always fills the room full of life.”

Alex, also an STS major, isn’t sure of her plans. She noted that when she was a freshman, she tore an Achilles tendon. She had to work hard to come back, but “it helps when you have great teammates.” She didn’t say if she would come back for her final year of eligibility.

Human biology major and 3-point shooter Bonnie said to the fans, “I love hearing you guys every time I make a 3.” She added, “We go through so much together (that) you guys don’t see.” She eventually wants to go to med school but might take a year or two off first. She’s not sure if she’ll play professionally.

After a teary-eyed Karlie said, “I really love being here with her,” Bonnie responded, “I’m really going to miss Karlie. I have every confidence that she’s going to be super successful.”

Erica, yet another STS major, told the fans that even though she hasn’t had a lot of playing time, “You guys make me feel like a starter.” Through tears she said to her teammates, “You’re a goofy bunch, and I love you very much.” Unlike her classmates, Erica has definite plans. After graduation, she’s going to work for Deloitte as a consultant. Her mother told me previously that she had an internship with Sunrun Solar during the summer.

Oregon schools next on schedule

Looking ahead, the team travels north for its only meetings with Oregon State at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 and Oregon at 1 p.m. March 1. Its loss to Cal knocked it out of contention for the Pac-12 season championship after winning or sharing it 14 years in a row. However, it has been assured a first-round bye in the conference tournament in Seattle March 5-8. Its first game will be during the quarterfinals March 6.

A personal note: I want to thank Marian and Dave Cortesi for producing a first-rate site for the Fast Break Club. Marian is the one who posts such relevant photos to go with my stories. I also use the site as a valuable source of information for my own fandom.

I’m hoping that someone will be willing to take over as webmaster after the banquet in April. There’s a link for contacting Marian next to her stories for Stories of the Season.

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