February 19, 2018

Not what we had hoped for

With only five players scoring, the Stanford women's basketball team couldn't overcome Cal's more balanced attack and lost 66-78 at Cal in the second round of the Battle of the Bay on Feb. 17.

Three starters shouldered most of the scoring load, 87.8 percent. Senior guard Brittany McPhee contributed 24 points in 38 minutes followed by junior forward Alanna Smith with 20 in 35 minutes and freshman guard Kiana William with 14 in 31 minutes.

The fourth starter who scored was senior forward Kaylee Johnson, who had six points in 31 minutes. The only bench player to score was sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington: two points in 17 minutes. Four other bench players got into the game but were scoreless.

Starting junior guard Marta Sniezek reverted to her reluctance to go to the basket and missed her only attempt in 31 minutes. She also missed both free throw attempts.

All eight Cal players to see action scored, cheered by the loudly partisan crowed of 4,211. Because they were scattered throughout Haas Pavilion, it was hard to guesstimate how many fans wore Cardinal red, perhaps 200. Fans also included the band (tucked into a corner), Dollies and Tree, but no cheerleaders.

Cal celebrates seniors

Because it was Cal's senior day, Kaylee and Britt received flowers before the game. So  did Cal's senior manager and its two senior players, Penina Davidson and Mikayla Cowling, who were joined at center court by their families. They were honored after the game, too, but most Stanford fans didn't stay.

In one especially moving pre-game gesture, the crowd was asked to stand for the national anthem of New Zealand, Penina's home country. As they stood at attention, her teammates on either side placed their hands on her shoulders as she sang along with the anthem.

The U.S. national anthem followed, well played by the Westlake Middle School band.

Most rebounds go to Cal

Stanford's stat line wasn't pretty. Besides the final score, perhaps the most glaring disparity came in rebounds, 47 by Cal and 32 by Stanford. Kaylee had the most with nine.

The Cardinal made five of 27 three's, or 18.5 percent. Alanna had three. Kiana and Britt each had one. Cal had seven of 20, or 35 percent, some coming as daggers in the game's final minutes.

Cal made 13 of 18 free throws, or 72.2 percent -- several when Stanford was deliberately fouling to regain possession toward the end. Stanford had 11 of 18 free throws, or 61.1 percent.

Otherwise, Stanford had 14 turnovers, Cal 16. Stanford had seven blocks to Cal's four. A painful turnover came in the final seconds of the first quarter. Britt was holding the ball for a last shot when a Bear player took it right out of her hands.

Cal led nearly all the way, coming out on top 21-16 after the first quarter, 36-34 at the half and 59-48 after the third quarter. Stanford led briefly during the first quarter and tied the game or came close several times but couldn't muster enough offense to win.

Thirteen Cardinal players were available. Sophomore guard Anna Wilson was in street clothes and wearing a boot.

Lion dancers honor Chinese New Year

In honor of Chinese New Year, the Cal VSA Lion Dance Team provided halftime entertainment. Three colorful lions propelled by two people each challenged each other as two percussionists provided sound effects.

It's uncertain how this loss to an unranked team will eventually affect Stanford's seeding in the NCAA tournament, when the top 16 teams have a chance to host the first two rounds. It did drop Stanford to 16 from 14 in the weekly AP poll.

Pac-12 standings and seeding for the conference tournament will be affected by how the top four teams -- Stanford, UCLA and the Oregon schools -- fare in their final conference games.

Stanford will wrap up its conference schedule by visiting Washington at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 and Washington State at 1 p.m. Feb. 25. Both games will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

February 16, 2018

Round one goes to Stanford

Players, coaches and fans have reason to celebrate during the game.. (Photos by Bob Drebin/ISIPhotos)
In the first round of its cross-bay rivalry, the Stanford women’s basketball team prevailed over Cal 74-69 on Feb. 15 at Maples.

The Cardinal were led by freshman guard Kiana Williams, who scored a career-high 26 points.

Although the teams were nearly identical in most statistical categories, one question stands out: How important are free throws?

Free throws still could clinch a victory

Well, even if Stanford hadn’t made two more two-point baskets than Cal, the home team still would have eked out a one-point win because it made one more free throw, 16 of 21,  than Cal, 15 of 21.

Stanford had no baskets during the final 8:04 minutes, so free throws were huge with eight of 10 made in the final four minutes.

Cal had 25 fouls, while Stanford had 18. Senior forward Kaylee Johnson fouled out during the fourth quarter. Two Cal players fouled out.

Otherwise, both teams had eight three-pointers, but Stanford was better percentage-wise, eight of 19, or 42.1 percent, while Cal made eight of 22, or 36.4 percent. Overall, Stanford shot 40.3 percent, and Cal shot slightly better at 41.1 percent.

Kiana looks to add to her point total.
Kiana pours in five three’s

Stanford’s three’s came from Kiana, who made of five of seven; along with one each from senior guard Brittany McPhee, junior center Shannon Coffee and sophomore forward Nadia Fingall.

The Cardinal had 15 assists to Cal’s 10 and eight steals to Cal’s five. Stanford had 11 turnovers, while Cal had 16.

Kaylee works hard under the basket.
Cal’s biggest advantage came in rebounds: 40 versus Stanford’s 30. Kaylee had nine rebounds, while junior forward Alanna Smith had seven and Nadia had six.

The starting lineup featured the usual Alanna, Kaylee, Britt, Kiana and junior guard Marta Sniezek. They opened strong with an 18-7 lead with 3:12 to go in the first quarter. Alanna was first to score and had accounted for eight points by then. However, she mustered no more points after that.

Shannon is first-half heroine

Stanford finished the first quarter with a 22-13 lead, but Cal rallied during the second and was ahead with one second to go when Shannon made her trey to give her team a 37-35 halftime edge in her only minute on the floor. 

Her teammates mobbed her with hugs as they headed to the locker room.

The Farm team led 57-49 at the end of the third quarter and surged to its biggest lead of the game, 66-51 at the 4:22 mark of the fourth.

Bears foul the wrong player (for them)

That’s when things got tight with Cal opting for a full-court press and finally fouling intentionally during the waning moments. Unfortunately for the Bears, the player they fouled the most was Kiana, who made seven of nine free-throw attempts during the game.

Britt and Nadia like what just happened.
Besides Kiana with 26 points, the only other Stanford players in double figures were Britt with 17 and Nadia with 10.

Because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Night, Stanford’s white uniforms had pink accents and the Cal players wore pink uniforms. Many in the crowd of 3,074 also wore pink, including the man who always wears a pink tutu for this occasion.

During various timeouts, the women’s softball and gymnastics teams tossed pink T-shirts into the stands.

Jimmy V honored

In another timeout, Jimmy V (Viglizzo) was honored. The creator and owner of Jimmy V’s sports cafĂ©  in the Arrillaga Family Sports Center is retiring this year after serving the Farm since 1999. SWBB fans fondly recall events he catered for them.

This victory over Cal in the final home game of the regular season extended this season’s home winning streak to 9-0 and assured Stanford of a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle in early March. Stanford hopes to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament with a top 16 seed.

The win also put the team alone at the top of the conference, at least temporarily, because the other top teams, Oregon and UCLA, didn’t play. They face each other Feb. 19.

In the meantime, Stanford will travel to Berkeley for the second round of the Battle of the Bay at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 17.

February 13, 2018

Cheers, tears on Senior Day

Trainer Katelin Knox is always ready to help Stanford women’s basketball players whether it’s with a bandage, an ice pack or extra tape on the ankle.

She was ready again on Feb. 11 as the team and fans honored the two seniors on Senior Day, following the 62-53 victory over Colorado at Maples.

The waterworks started as junior forward Alanna Smith paid tribute to her senior counterpart, Kaylee Johnson. When Alanna, who hails from Australia, was a freshman, “Kayl was always the one I turned to,” she said. She praised Kaylee’s leadership and said, “You always put in 110 percent.”

Kaylee answers fans' questions during the Senior Day ceremony. (Dave Cortesi)
Kaylee remarked how fast four years go by, and she thanked the fans, her teammates, her family and the coaches. It was then that Katelin delivered a box of tissues for the emotional players.

Kaylee praised for determination

Head coach Tara VanDerveer said of Kaylee, “The first time I saw your picture, I said you’re going to Stanford … She doesn’t back down from anyone or anything.”

Kaylee’s mother, Sonjia, agreed. “She’s always been very determined,” noting that from the time she was 4 years old, Kaylee said she would play basketball.

When she was old enough, the two of them would leave their home in Casper, Wyo., at 2 p.m. and drive to Fort Collins, Colo., for her to practice and compete before returning at midnight.

Besides her mother, Kaylee was joined by her siblings and grandparents.

Alexa calls Britt “a game-changer”

Junior guard Alexa Romano saluted her roommate and senior counterpart, Brittany McPhee, calling her friendly with “so much to offer.” She’s the “hardest worker I know … She’s a game-changer,” Alexa said. “You are my best friend,” she added.

Britt gets a laugh from a fan's question after the game. (Dave Cortesi)
Britt said she chose Stanford for basketball and credited her twin sister, Jordan, for her fierceness on the court. Jordan plays at Seattle Pacific near their hometown of Normandy Park, Wash.

Their father, Bryce, added, “She really loves basketball.” He was among the family contingent that included their mother and two siblings.

Tara said she was impressed by how much Britt read.

Seniors have high hopes for future

Both seniors hope to play professionally after graduation. Kaylee, a political science major, is studying for the Law School Administration Test with the intent of going to law school. Britt majors in human biology and eventually will take the Medical College Admission Test, needed for med school.

During the victory over Colorado, Britt led the team with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Kaylee added five points and 10 rebounds.

They were part of the starting lineup that also included Alanna, junior guard Marta Sniezek and freshman guard Kiana Williams. Kiana was playing without the protective mask she had worn during the win over Utah on Feb. 8. It was needed because of the stitches she had after an on-court collision with Britt during the Oregon game the week before.

Britt and Nadia defend against a Colorado player. (Bob Drebin/isiphotos.com)
Tough defense was on display during the 70-49 victory over Utah, along with solid performances by Britt, Marta and sophomore forward Nadia Fingall. They had 18, 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Fouls mar Colorado game

On the other hand, the highly physical Colorado game was notable for the number of fouls -- 18 against Stanford and 28 against the Buffaloes, giving Stanford 35 chances at the free-throw line. Success there was less than stellar, only 19 shots made for 54.3 percent.

The crowd of 3,838 often booed the three officials for calls or non-calls. Some of those boos followed the two technical fouls assessed to Alanna, who fouled out during the fourth quarter. Three Colorado players fouled out.

Kaylee and Alanna  wait at the scorers table as they and their teammates celebrate a good move. (Bob Drebin/isiphotos.com)
The game also was marred by 21 turnovers for each team. After scoring nine times from beyond the arc in the Utah game, the Cardinal could muster only three against Colorado. They came from Alanna, Marta and freshman forward Alyssa Jerome.

The crowd had ample reason to cheer during the first quarter when a video board announcement said this game was announcer Betty Ann Hagenau’s 300th behind the SWBB microphone.

Stanford rises in AP poll

This win brought the team’s winning streak to six and elevated it from 17th to 14th in the weekly AP poll. It remained tied for first with UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference.

With only four conference games left, two against Cal and two at the Washington schools, the team is aiming to win them all. “That’s realistic with the way the team has been playing,” Tara said.

The wins, along with a strong showing at the Pac-12 Tournament in Seattle in early March, could go a long way toward a top 16 seed in the NCAA tourney and the chance to host its first two rounds.

Fans cheer freshmen at restaurant

After the game, Kiana, freshman forward Maya Dodson and Maya’s parents, Karen and Darryl, visiting from Alpharetta, Ga., went to the Fish Market in Palo Alto for dinner. As they walked to their table, they were cheered by a neighboring table of eight fans.

Several of those fans, as well as others at the restaurant, stopped at their table to congratulate the players for how well they’re doing. Afterward, many of them posed for a photo with the Dodsons and Kiana.

The Cardinal host Cal at 7 p.m. Feb. 15, then journey across the bay to play the Bears again at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 17.