April 17, 2017

Thanks for the memories: Part 2 of 2

Pac-12 tournament trophy goes to Stanford

Despite losing the regular season championship, the Stanford women’s basketball team went to Seattle for the Pac-12 tournament and came home with the championship trophy. The path to the championship was paved with wins over Washington State 66-36 on March 3, over Oregon 71-56 on March 4, and 48-43 payback win over Oregon State on March 5.

In the Washington State game, senior guard Karlie Samuelson’s six 3’s tied her career record, something she’d done three times before. Her 21 points also marked the seventh career game in which she had at least 20 points.

Against Oregon, junior forward Kaylee Johnson scored a season-high 11 points and hauled in 12 rebounds for her first double-double.

Nothing  but net for Tara and the Pac-12 champions (Eric Evans Photography)
In defeating OSU for the championship, Stanford became the first No. 2 seed to win the trophy. Moreover, senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall was named the most outstanding player, and sophomore forward Alanna Smith was named to the all-tournament team, along with Bird.

Time to dance

Out came the dancing shoes when Stanford was placed in the Lexington bracket as a No. 2 seed. Ordinarily that seeding would mean Stanford could host the first two rounds, but they conflicted with a women’s gymnastics tournament at Maples.

No matter. The team traveled to Manhattan, Kan., and left with a 72-64 win over New Mexico State on March 18 and a 69-48 win over Kansas State on March 20.

Both games featured the welcome return of the band, Tree and Dollies for the first time since their suspension earlier in the season.

Karlie had 17 points in the New Mexico State game, 15 of them from 3’s. Her fifth 3 raised her career total to 238, one more than her sister Bonnie, ’15, and ranking her third on Stanford’s all–time list behind Candice Wiggins, ’08, with 295 and Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, with 268. Alanna led the team with 19 points.

It was junior guard Brittany McPhee to the fore against Kansas State as she poured in 21 points, followed by Alanna with 19.

Big D via Little Apple and Bluegrass State

That round two win sent the Cardinal to its 10th consecutive Sweet 16 and gave the team its 14th 30-win season in program history.

Although the team had planned to return to Stanford after the Kansas State game, its charter plane didn’t arrive. Instead, the team spent another night in Manhattan before flying directly to Lexington, Ky., where players took their finals in the hotel.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coach Tempie Brown, however, dashed back to Stanford to fetch the team’s black road uniforms in case it advanced to play the No. 1 seed, Notre Dame, in the Elite Eight and to take care of other details.

Those black uniforms were needed because the Cardinal defeated Texas 77-66 on March 24, while Notre Dame defeated Ohio State 99-76.  

Stanford led Texas 18-17 after the first quarter, but trailed 36-29 at the half. Then the team became the comeback kids. Karlie and Britt got things going in the third quarter with two consecutive 3’s. When the third quarter buzzer sounded, Stanford was up 54-49.

The last Cardinal basket came with just over four minutes left and the score 64-57. The next 12 points came from free throws.

All 11 available players saw action. Sophomore guard Alexa Romano came in with less than a minute left and hit two free throws, causing jubilation on the bench. This reaction symbolized how much the players care for one another no matter how much time they play or how many points they score.

Bird led the team with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Also in double figures were Karlie with 15, Britt with 12 and Alanna with 10.

And with the win it was on to SWBB’s 19th Elite Eight and Notre Dame.

Another big comeback edges the Irish

This March 26 contest was a nip-and-tuck, come-from-behind victory with the Cardinal ending on top. The score was tied 10 times and the lead changed 18 times. The Cardinal were down by 16 early in the third before clawing their way back.

Bird makes the last-second, win-saving block against Notre Dame.  (Timothy D. Easley, AP)
With 2.3 seconds left, Alanna hit what proved to be the winning basket, making the score 76-75. With 2.2 seconds left, Notre Dame had a chance, inbounding the ball under its basket, but Bird blocked the Irish shot and assured the win, setting off a huge celebration. It was the 198th block of her career.

Britt topped the team with 27 points, followed by Karlie and Alanna with 15 each.

The victory sent the team to Dallas for SWBB’s 13th Final Four and the first since the seniors were freshmen. Britt and Karlie were named to the All-Tournament Team.

In the meantime, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association named Karlie and Bird to its All-Region 5 Team, and the Associated Press accorded them All-American honorable mention.

Facing South Carolina in the semi-final of the Final Four in Dallas on March 31, the Cardinal ran out of comeback magic. The final score was 62-53.

The first half ended with Stanford up 29-20, but it had suffered a major blow earlier in the second quarter when Karlie sustained an ankle injury. She played in the second half but wasn’t moving as well as usual. The player whom head coach Tara VanDerveer has called the team’s glue was held scoreless during 25 minutes of playing time. Cold shooting in the second half also contributed to the loss.

Bird and Alanna had 14 points each and 14 and 12 rebounds, respectively.

Following this semi-final game, Mississippi State stunned UConn 66-64 in overtime, ending the Huskies’ 111-game winning streak. The last time UConn had lost was Nov. 17, 2014, when Stanford won 88-86, also in overtime.

Mississippi State and South Carolina met in the final game April 2, when the Gamecocks won their first-ever championship 67-55.

During the Final Four festivities, Bird and Karlie earned Honorable Mention honors on the 2017 WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches' All-America Team.

Britt won the NCAA’s Elite 90 award for the having highest GPA, 3.73 in human biology, of all players in the Final Four. This award is bestowed in each of the NCAA’s 90 championships.

The team poses for its final group shot. (Dave Cortesi photo)
Last gathering at spring banquet

Nearly 250 people had a chance to honor the team one last time at the spring banquet April 9 at the faculty club.

During the event, Tara listed some of the team’s accomplishments such as the program’s 13th Final Four and its seventh in the past 10 years, the Pac-12 tournament championship for the 12th time in 15 years, six different leading scorers, six comeback wins and eight Pac-12 All-Academic honorees.

Illustrating the team’s unity, this was the first team to go to the Final Four with no All-American, and it had no Pac-12 Players of the Week.

Athletic director Bernard Muir announced that when the Stanford Hall of Fame opens in the fall, one area will be devoted to Tara.

Tara then brought each class to the front to praise each player. She also issued numerous thank-you’s to the staff, including the coaches.

Seniors praised for leadership

When it came time for the three seniors, she said, “This class has set a new standard for leadership.” Each one then had a chance to speak to the group.

A video showed season highlights.

Next, Tara talked about the coming season with its trip to Italy in September, Countdown to Columbus showcase in November and a Thanksgiving tournament in Las Vegas.

Amy retires from coaching

After the official festivities, the entire team lined up for photos. Returning players then gathered around Tara to hear what’s in store for the off-season.

It was then that Tara reportedly told the players that Amy is retiring from her 32 years of coaching at Stanford, but she will remain with the program in an administrative role.

Stanford athletics issued the official announcement on April 13. It did not specify what her role would be or who would replace her.

However, in an interview with Jacob Rayburn of Stanford.rivals.com, she said that she would keep some of her present duties, but her job description wasn’t complete.

She did say that “she will handle the program’s Nike contract and will work with Stanford’s admission office as a liaison in recruiting. She also is helping to coordinate the team’s summer trip to Italy from Sept. 5-15.” Rayburn wrote.

Bird drafted; Lindy hired

Also on April 13, Bird was drafted by the Indiana Fever as the No. 17 pick of the WNBA draft. She will join another Stanford grad, Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, ’11. The Fever reportedly were ecstatic to get her.

Lindy wore No. 15 during her four collegiate years. (Stanford photo)
Yet another Stanford grad, Lindy La Rocque, made news April 17 when Tara announced that she had been hired as an assistant coach, filling the vacancy left by Amy’s retirement from the bench. She, along with Kate, will work with perimeter players, according to Stanford Athletics.

Lindy, a guard known for her 3-point prowess, played in four Final Fours with the Cardinal from 2009-12. She returns to the Farm after two years as an assistant at Belmont University in Nashville. Before that, she was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma, where she earned a master’s in education.

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