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.

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