April 10, 2015

A look back: Part 3 of 3 -- Tournament time

Ending the season with a 13-5 conference record, Stanford entered the Pac-12 tournament at KeyArena in Seattle as the No. 3 seed, its lowest ever for the event.

Nevertheless, when the weekend ended, it was Stanford cutting down the nets and taking home the championship trophy.

The march to that celebration began with a nail-biting 67-62 win over No. 6-seeded UCLA on March 6. Starters were senior guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guard Lili Thompson, freshman guard Brittany McPhee, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson and sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

The Cardinal led most of the way, but UCLA pulled within 1 point, 63-62, with only 20.7 seconds left. After a break by the referees to determine possession, the ball went to Stanford. UCLA fouled Bonnie, who hit two free throws with 14 seconds to go. UCLA missed a trey with 4 seconds to go and fouled Lili, who made two free throws to ice the win.

Amber led the team with 18 points, followed by Lili with 14 and Bird with 10.

Payback against ASU, 59-56

Next up on March 7 was No. 2-seeded Arizona State, coached by Stanford WBB alum Charli Turner Thorne, ’88. Once again the score was close, 59-56, with the Cardinal on top.

Amber had scored all of the team’s points at the 13:55 mark, when Stanford led 12-6. The halftime score was 29-25, thanks in large part to 15 points from Amber and 9 from senior forward Taylor Greenfield.

The Cardinal had a fairly comfortable lead, 48-35, at the 11:08 mark, but had amassed 10 fouls to ASU’s one.

The lead kept shrinking until it was 57-56 with 39.5 seconds left. After another huddle to determine possession, the refs gave the ball to Stanford. ASU began fouling,

With the clock at 20.2 seconds, ASU, now with six fouls, forced Bonnie and the ball out of bounds. ASU got the ball and shot it, but freshman forward Kaylee Johnson blocked it. She was fouled, made her first free throw and missed the second, but Taylor rebounded it. She was fouled and made her free throw to clinch the victory at 59-56.

Amber had a game-high 18 points, followed by Taylor with 17. Kaylee had a team-high 10 rebounds plus a career-high five blocks. The team’s nine blocks were a season high (eight previously).

A big puzzle for Cardinal fans was the disparity in fouls – 21 on Stanford versus 13 on ASU, many of them deliberate in the final seconds.

61-60 squeaker over Cal leads to jubilation

As if the first two games weren’t suspenseful enough, the championship game against Cal on March 8 was even tighter, 61-60.

Before the game, the video board noted that Stanford was 36-3 all time in the tournament. Now it’s 37-3.

Stanford had an immediate edge because it had played the earlier game the night before, giving it more rest on a night when clocks advanced an hour for Daylight Saving Time.

Perhaps another difference-maker came less than 5 minutes into the first half when Brittany inadvertently collided with Brittany Boyd, sending the Cal point guard to the locker room with a facial cut. She returned late in the first half and wound up playing 27 minutes but had only 7 points. Cal forward Reshanda Gray played only 29 minutes because of foul trouble and finished with 6 points.

In the meantime, Taylor was on her way to a career-high, game-high 20 points, while Lili had 13 and Amber 12.

Kaylee finished with 12 rebounds for her 17th 10-plus rebound game this season.

Stanford led by no more than 6 points throughout the second half. With 8.4 seconds left, the lead was 61-57, so Cal’s 3-pointer left it 1 point short of forcing overtime.

With that, Stanford fans and players could celebrate.

Tournament honors for Amber, Taylor

Amber was named to the all-tournament team for the second time (2013 was the first). Besides her 12 points, she had a career-high six steals, tied for most steals in a championship game.

Taylor was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and received a curving, blue glass trophy. A similar but larger trophy was presented to head coach Tara VanDerveer for the team’s 11th tournament championship. Then it was time to cut down the nets.

Nicknamed “Tournament Taylor” by her teammates, Taylor was the first non-starter to be named MOP in the tournament’s 14 years.

Defense was critical in all three tournament wins with Stanford amassing 17 steals, three more than its opponents. The team also had a total of 20 blocks, compared with four by its opponents.

Winning the tournament gave Stanford an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. When tournament selections were announced March 16, its No. 4 seed gave it the right to host the first two rounds at Maples.

The Big Dance begins

Back on the Farm, the team logged wins in Rounds 1 and 2 of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Oklahoma City regional.

The first win came March 21 over Cal State Northridge 73-60. This was a milestone event as Tara enjoyed her 800th victory at Stanford. Thus she became only the 10th Division 1 men’s or women’s coach to amass that many wins at one school. She raised her overall Stanford record to 800-165 and her career record to 952-216 as of that date.

In addition, the victory marked the 500th for the program in Maples Pavilion against 87 losses.

Stanford jumped out to an 8-0 lead, holding CSUN scoreless until just after four minutes into the game. The lead ballooned for another seven minutes until CSUN made a run that put it ahead 29-28 at the half.

Once the second half got under way, the tide began to turn, thanks in part to Lili and Taylor. Lili had spent part of the first half on the bench with two fouls, but she returned to score 7 quick points. She finished second in scoring with 17 points.

“Tournament Taylor” scored 13 of her team-leading 19 points in the second half. Playing virtually the entire game, Bonnie added 14 points. Also in double figures was Bird with 10.

Amber had 6 points and figured in the highlight of the second half. She scrambled for a loose ball on the floor and flipped it to Lili, who sped to the basket for an easy layup.

Accounting for part of the 13-point victory margin were 19 of 25 free throws, compared with four of five by CSUN. Stanford had nine fouls compared with CSUN’s 19. Many of those came in the final two minutes, even in the final few seconds when CSUN had no chance of winning.

Oklahoma falls next

Oklahoma was the next to fall, 86-76, on March 23. The Sooners had advanced by beating Quinnipiac of Connecticut 111-84 two days earlier.

Tara used only eight of the 12 available players. As had been in the case in several previous games, sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson was out with a broken finger. Sophomore forward Kailee Johnson and redshirt junior guard Alex Green were unavailable for undisclosed reasons for both NCAA games.

The Cardinal trailed throughout the first half, leading to a 36-32 halftime deficit. That was nothing new. Counting this game, the Cardinal had been down at the half 14 times this season and had rallied to win nine times, including the previous six games.

Lili and Amber teamed up to move Stanford ahead in the second half. The lead stretched to as many as 14 points about halfway through, but Oklahoma kept trying to come back.

With less than three minutes to go, the Sooners deliberately fouled, but that tactic didn’t work because the Cardinal made most of its free throws.

For the game, Stanford made a season-high 30 free throws on 38 attempts, tying a season high. Thus it shot 78.9 percent from the charity stripe. Oklahoma had 28 fouls with two players fouling out. Stanford had 21 fouls; no one fouled out.

Stanford made only two 3’s in the first half but finished with a total of eight. Bonnie accounted for three, all in the second half. Lili also had three. Amber and sophomore guard Briana Roberson had one each.

Baranduin Briggs
Amber led all players with 24 points. Thus she became the 21st SWBB player to pass the 1,400-point mark with a total of 1,414 career points. Her career-high 11 field goals topped her previous high of 10.

Bonnie and Lili had 19 points each. Even though Bonnie got her fourth foul with 3:22 to go, Tara kept her in, giving her time to make a 3 and several free throws.

With 13 points, Bri was the fourth player in double figures. At that point, Stanford was 13-0 for the season when at least four players scored in double figures.

The victory upped Stanford’s NCAA record to 77-26 overall and 32-4 at Maples. This win was its 12th straight at home.

It also allowed the Cardinal to advance to its eighth consecutive Sweet 16.

End of the line in OKC

The season ended March 27 when No. 1 seeded Notre Dame defeated No. 4 seed Stanford 81-60 in the Oklahoma City regional.

With the Irish shooting 49.2 percent and the Cardinal 35.4 percent, Stanford was defeated by the better team, at least for that evening. Stanford finished the season 26-10 while Notre Dame improved to 34-2 and an Elite 8 date with Baylor.

Despite the disparity in the final score, Stanford rallied several times but couldn’t pull ahead. With about two minutes to go, Tara sent in the bench, thus giving playing time to all 12 available players. (Karlie, Kailee and Alex were still in street clothes.)  

Lili went to the locker room for several minutes after hurting her knee in the first half. She returned to play for a while longer but logged a total of only 16 minutes and scored only 2 points.

Baranduin Briggs

Among the game’s highlights were Bonnie’s five 3-pointers. She scored a total of 17 points to lead the team. With Bonnie’s reputation as a great 3-point shooter, the TV announcer quipped that the opposition has to start guarding her coming out of the locker room.

Amber and Bird were the only other Cardinal players in double figures, scoring 12 points each. Bird had a double-double with a game-leading 10 rebounds.

With the season behind them, the players could focus more on academics as the spring quarter began March 30.

In the meantime, Amber was named a Senior CLASS Award Second Team All-American for excellence in the classroom, character, community and competition. She also earned an Associated Press All-America honorable mention nod and was one of five Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-Region VIII honorees.

Bonnie was one of eight senior women chosen to compete in the State Farm 3-Point Championship in Indianapolis prior to the men’s Final Four.

For a complete rundown of team and individual accomplishments, look at “In the Record Book 2014-15” under Stories of the Season on this site.

Looking ahead, fans may be optimistic about next season. At least nine players are returning, and the four incoming recruits come with strong credentials. Just wait ’til next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment