April 14, 2017

Thanks for the memories: Part 1 of 2

Winding up the 2016-17 season with a 32-6 record, the Stanford women’s basketball team posted several major accomplishments. They included the 1,000th win of head coach Tara VanDerveer’s coaching career, the Pac-12 tournament championship and the first trip to the Final Four since the seniors were freshmen.

Here’s how it all happened:

For most of the team, the 2016-17 season began with practices during the spring and summer.

Returning players had workouts in the spring and were joined by three of the four freshmen for summer school. The other freshman, guard Mikaela Brewer of Canada, was playing for Team Canada, which won silver at U18 competition in Chile.

The freshmen on campus were McDonald’s All-Americans: guards Anna Wilson and DiJonai Carrington and forward Nadia Fingall. Anna and DiJonai couldn’t practice because of injuries. Nadia played in Pro-Am games in San Francisco, as did senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Alexa goes to India

Sophomore guard Alexa Romano was on campus but wasn’t taking classes because she was part of the new Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement Program. Alexa did some coaching and taught English and computer literacy at a youth center in New Delhi, India.

When the team reconvened in the fall, it was missing two seniors. Guard Lili Thompson had left for undisclosed reasons but remained in school to complete her degree. She later committed to Notre Dame to play as a graduate transfer next season. Forward Kailee Johnson graduated early to begin a career in real estate investing.

Fans got their first look at the team during an open practice Oct. 24. Senior guard Karlie Samuelson, sporting a red cast on her left wrist, took part only in non-contact drills. Anna stayed on the sidelines as she recovered from a concussion suffered in the spring.

After the practice, Tara introduced each player. She said the team was perhaps a month ahead of where it was at the same time a year ago.

The team had its only competitive tune-up at home Nov. 4 when it defeated UC San Diego 85-41 in an exhibition. The Division II school is coached by Tara’s sister Heidi VanDerveer.

Anna and Karlie were still sidelined, but the other 11 players all contributed. Afterward, Tara introduced the freshmen and said that “our future is in great hands with” them.

Season opens with a win over Cal Poly

Competition began for real at home on Nov. 11 when Cal Poly fell 83-55. Senior guard Briana Roberson led the way with 16 points, including four 3’s Also contributing to the team’s eight 3’s were Karlie and Mikaela with two each. Karlie had been cleared to play only a few days earlier.

The starters were Bird, junior forward Kaylee Johnson, Bri, junior guard Brittany McPhee and sophomore guard Marta Sniezek.

Britt is introduced before going on to lead the team over Texas. (Don Feria Isi/Photo)
Texas came calling on Nov. 14 and left with a 71-59 loss. Visiting from Australia, Darren Smith, father of sophomore forward Alanna Smith, said after the game that he had one bit of advice for the team: “Get the ball to Brittany.” Evidently the team heeded him, for Britt poured in a game-high and career-high 28 points.

Gonzaga dishes out first loss

The outcome was different Nov. 18 when Gonzaga left Maples with a 68-63 victory. Still, Britt led the team with 22 points. Bird added 17 points and 11 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.

The team returned to its winning ways by downing Cal State Northridge 88-54 at home on Nov. 20. The starting lineup featured Bird, Kaylee, Bri, Britt and Karlie for the first time since recovering from her injury.

Perhaps because she was looking ahead to a Thanksgiving tournament with three games in three days, Tara used all available players. Bird led the team with 17 points. Center Shannon Coffee logged only seven minutes but made a career-high 8 points, going 3-for-3 from the floor and 2-for-2 at the free-throw line. She added three rebounds and a steal to her stat line.

Three wins help team celebrate Thanksgiving in Mexico

Thanksgiving break found the Cardinal in Cancun, Mexico, winning three games in three days: 74-45 over Northeastern on Nov. 24, 87-39 over Wichita State on Nov. 25 and 78-69 over Purdue on Nov. 26.

Back on the road, the Cardinal visited Bird’s home town on Dec. 1 and came away with a 77-56 win over Cal State Bakersfield, coached by her father, Greg. She helped clinch the win with 18 points.

The team came home to defeat UC Davis 68-42 on Dec. 4. With Kaylee sidelined by a foot injury, the starters were Marta, Bri, Karlie, Britt and Bird. Once again all 11 available players scored.

After the game, season ticket holders adjourned to Dallmer Court to enjoy refreshments and hear from the coaches and players.

After time off for finals, the team journeyed to Tennessee and lost 59-51 on Dec. 18. Then it was off to the nation’s capital for a 71-52 victory over George Washington on Dec. 21. Scoring 13 points, Bird became the 37th SWBB player to surpass 1,000 points.

Anna cheered in her first action

Anna played for the first time Dec. 28 as the team romped 102-44 over Yale at home. She was one of four players in double figures, racking up 11 points plus one rebound, an assist and a steal in 17 minutes.

Playing the point, she entered the game with about six minutes to go in the second quarter. Less than a minute later, she stole the ball on a Yale inbound pass and scored her first collegiate basket. She followed that up with a trey shortly before the half.

Karlie scored a team high 21 against Yale. (Bob Drebin photo)
Starting were Bird, Karlie, Britt, Bri and, for the first time, Nadia, who had 8 points on 4-for-4 shooting.

Band, Tree, Dollies suffer suspension

Noticeably absent from the game were the band, Tree and Dollies. Administrators had suspended all band activities because of its behavior over the years.

Pac-12 play for the Cardinal began with a 64-57 win at Arizona State on Dec. 30. It was at tight game with six ties and six lead changes. Staying in the desert, the team began 2017 by defeating Arizona 77-55 on Jan. 1.

Back home, Alanna stepped into the limelight by leading her team to an 81-60 victory over Oregon on Jan. 6. She scored 24 points in just 20 minutes, snared four rebounds, dished two assists and stole the ball the twice. She was a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe.

Kaylee and Mikaela were back in action with limited minutes, but Britt was out, reportedly from a sprained ankle.

One well received new twist for fans came between the third and fourth quarters, when T-shirts attached to white mini-parachutes fluttered from overhead into the crowd.

Double OT leads to loss to OSU

The season’s toughest game to date came Jan. 8 when the Oregon State visitors came away with a win in double overtime. It was the first time in 30 tries that the Beavers had defeated Stanford at Maples.

Regulation play ended 51-51, the first OT 63-63 and the second OT 72-69 in the visitors’ favor.

Stanford had a chance to clinch the game at the end of regulation when Britt hit a layup to tie the score and was fouled, but she missed the free throw.

Next it was off to Utah and a 77-58 win on Jan. 13. Colorado was the next host to fall, losing 84-70 on Jan. 15. The game was notable for 11 treys on 20 attempts, 55 percent. Karlie led with five.

Karlie pours in 201st career trey

Karlie joined some distinguished company on Jan. 20 as she logged her 201st career 3-pointer during the 73-46 defeat of Arizona at Maples. She tied for seventh all time with Nicole Powell, ’04. The record is 295 set by Candice Wiggins, ’08.

She was a starter, along with Bird, Britt, Bri and Nadia. All 11 available players saw action.

Marta, Britt and Kaylee  team up on defense against ASU. (Nhat V. Meyer, Bay Area News Group)
Stanford completed its sweep of the Arizona schools by defeating Arizona State 66-56 at home on Jan. 22. Stifling defense limited ASU to 29.6 percent shooting, while the Cardinal shot 45.8 percent.

Kaylee resumes starting role

Kaylee returned to the starting lineup after missing several games and coming off the bench for several more. Playing 25 minutes, she logged 6 points and four rebounds. Also starting were Bird, Bri, Karlie and Britt.

Halftime started with the men’s soccer team parading onto the court with two NCAA championship trophies –- one for last season and one for this. A few minutes later, the always-popular agility dogs wove through poles, jumped hurdles and scooted through tunnels.

One scary moment came shortly before the half when Britt fell under the south basket and gripped her ankle. She was assisted to the locker room, so fans assumed she was done for the day, but she was back to start the third quarter.

After the game, Pac-12 Network commentator Mary Murphy assessed the team as “getting better and better.” Associate head coach Amy Tucker cited a little-known statistic: Stanford was leading the Pac-12 in free throw percentage in conference games. Stanford also was the only conference team undefeated on the road to date.

The road record remained spotless with a 76-54 win over Washington State on Jan. 27 and a 72-68 win over Washington on Jan. 29. The Washington game featured a sellout crowd of 10,000, the first in program history. The win also exacted revenge against the team that had knocked the Cardinal out of the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments in 2016.

Tara gets 1,000th career win

Confetti rained down and cheers resounded from nearly 4,500 fans as the team’s 58-42 victory over visiting USC gave Tara her 1,000th career win on Feb. 3. She became only the second women’s coach to reach that milestone, preceded by the late Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
Tara gets a 1,000-win keepsake from Karlie, Bird and Bri
The team donned “Tara 1,000” T-shirts and held up four giant numerals -– 1000. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott gave Tara a trophy, and the three seniors --- Bird, Bri and Karlie --- gave her a framed Stanford jersey with 1,000 on it.

As fans left Maples, they were entertained by the band, Dollies and Tree outside the northwest entrance. After being suspended, they were expected to return to action before the winter quarter ended in late March.

In observance of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the national championship women’s volleyball team was honored during halftime, followed by seven of Stanford’s female medal-winning Olympians of 2016.

The euphoria ended three days later when UCLA left with an 85-76 win on Feb. 6. All 13 players were suited up, and nine played. Starters were Bird, Karlie, Bri, Kaylee and Britt, a lineup that remained constant thereafter.

Britt helps save the day against Colorado

Colorado came to visit Feb. 10 and gave the Cardinal a scare for the first two quarters, but the home team refocused in the second half to win 64-51, thanks in large part to Britt. She scored 20 of her 26 points in the second half and snared a career-high 11 rebounds.

Colorado defenders were glued to Karlie, but her 4 points were enough to raise her career total to 1,003, making her the 38th member of the team’s 1,000-point club. Twelve players were suited up. Mikaela wasn’t there.

With all 12 players contributing, the team defeated visiting Utah 87-51 on Feb. 12. As Tara has said, this is a team that wins by committee rather than relying on one superstar. Different players step up at different times. This time it was Alanna, who contributed a game-high 16 points in 20 minutes.

Cal falls twice to cross-bay rival

Cal felt Stanford’s one-two punch by losing 72-66 at Haas on Feb. 16 and losing again 72-54 at Maples on Feb. 19.

The latter was a fitting farewell for the seniors, who were playing their last game at home, but of course not their last game.

All 13 players were there, but Mikaela and Anna were in street clothes.

As had been the case in the game at Cal, where she scored a career-high 27 points, Alanna led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds.

After the game, the seniors, joined by their families, were honored. In keeping with tradition, one underclassman was selected to salute a senior. So it was Britt for Bird, Kaylee for Bri and Shannon for Karlie.

Oregon State squeaked by the Cardinal 50-47 on Feb. 24 in Corvallis. For the first time since Feb. 14, 2014, in a 61-35 loss to Arizona State, Stanford had no 3’s. Moreover, no one was in double figures, and the loss meant Stanford had no chance to share the Pac-12 season championship.

The regular season ended with a 65-59 victory at Oregon on Feb. 26.

Two days later, Bird, Britt and Karlie were named to the all-Pac 12 team. Bri was named to the all-defensive team, and Nadia was an honorable mention for the all-freshman team.

Next: Tournament time

No comments:

Post a Comment