July 17, 2021

Veterans, newcomers sow excitement for coming season


 Haley (in Giants jersey) tossed the first pitch at an SF Giants game. (Stanford Athletics)

With 12 of its 13 national championship players returning and five highly regarded newcomers arriving, the outlook for the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 2021-22 season looks bright.

Kate
  “There’s a lot of anticipation, a lot of excitement,” associate head    coach Kate Paye said in a recent phone interview.

These feelings are heightened by the expectation that campus life will be close to normal for the fall quarter. By then coronavirus vaccinations will be required for everyone, with exceptions only for medical or religious reasons.

Team faced adversity last season

The coronavirus pandemic played havoc with everyone in the nation starting in March 2020.

Forced out of its Maples Pavilion home for most of the ’20-21 season, the team had to be flexible, a trait that paid off in games. The players faced a lot of adversity, but “they really rose to the challenge,” Kate said.

She believes that the team’s chemistry and culture along with its flexibility were the biggest factors in its success.

Game after game, someone different, often a bench player, might come through with a winning play. It’s called “benergy.  It’s all about our team,” Kate said.

Now the players are enjoying being on campus. Sixteen of the 17 are there. Most of them recently were honored at a San Francisco Giants game when junior guard Haley Jones threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Agnes visiting family in Australia

The only player not on campus is sophomore guard Agnes Emma-Nnopu. She’s visiting her family in Australia while taking classes remotely.

She hadn’t been home in a year, but when she arrived in Australia, she had to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks before being allowed to go home. She’s expected to return to campus in about a week, Kate said.

Point guard Kiana Williams, who graduated and opted to turn pro, is the only player not returning from last season. She’ll be missed, Kate said.

Finding someone to fill her spot at point guard is the team’s biggest question mark for now, Kate said. Possible replacements are sophomore guard Jana Van Gytenbeek, sixth-year guard Anna Wilson and graduate transfer guard Jordan Hamilton.

Besides Jordan, who comes from Northwestern University, the team's other newcomers are all freshmen: guards Brooke Demetre, Jzaniya Harriel and Elena Bosgana, and forward Okikiola (Kiki) Iriafen. Elena, who hails from Greece is the program's first European player.


Kate praises newcomers

Kate had high praise for all of them and noted that they’ve been welcomed and mentored by the returning players.

Both Anna and fifth-year forward Alyssa Jerome are returning thanks to an NCAA rule that grants an extra year of eligibility to last year’s winter sports players who were affected by pandemic restrictions. Jordan also is taking advantage of the rule.

Redshirt junior guard Jenna Brown hasn’t been cleared to practice while recovering from a knee injury that kept her out all of last season, but “she’s making a lot of progress,” Kate said.


Andrea Hayden confers with Sergio Romo of the Minnesota Twins in 2020. (Minnesota Twins photo)

Yet another newcomer is strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hayden, who recently had a similar role with Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins.

“We are thrilled with Andrea,” who was one of the first women in MLB, Kate said. Well organized with a good personality, she replaces Ali Kershner, who was named director of creative strategy for The Art of Coaching, based in Beaverton Ore. 

Internships offer experience

Several players are getting valuable experience from internships. Anna is with a firm that does creative work for Nike. Jordan is in commercial real estate.

Junior  forward Fran Belibi is doing research at a hospital. Two other juniors – forward Ashten Prechtel and guard Hannah Jump – are working at youth sports camps.

  
Tara at the ESPYs (Getty Images)
There was a special honor for head coach Tara Vanderveer, who won the ESPY award for 2021’s Best   Manager/Coach on July 10. The team is proud of her, Kate said. “She's a phenomenal coach and leader.”

 Summer classes end Aug. 27. Fall classes start Sept. 20.

 Championship players to get rings

 Championship rings for the ’20-21 team are being ordered,   but Kate wasn’t sure when or how they will be presented.

 Although the season schedule won’t be announced until late summer or early fall, Kate said exhibition games will   probably start in late October or early November.

Fans, who will be in Maples, too, can expect “an extremely challenging schedule,” she said.

With an unusually large roster, Kate expects things will be “extremely competitive (but) we consider depth a plus.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2021

Adversity can't stop this championship team

 

The players react with joy after clinching the NCAA crown. (Stanford Athletics)


Through a season buffeted by unprecedented external forces, Stanford women’s basketball players not only survived but thrived and prevailed.

Playing their way to a 31-2 record, they won the Pac-12 season championship, the Pac-12 tournament championship and the crown jewel – the NCAA national championship.

In her 35th season on the Farm and her 42nd year of college coaching, head coach Tara VanDerveer steered them with a steady hand.

In the process, she became the winningest women’s basketball coach ever, amassing 1,125 wins overall. The total would have been even greater if she hadn’t taken a year off to coach the USA team to an Olympic gold medal in 1996.

Tara wins three coach of the year honors

She was rewarded by being named Pac-12 coach of the year, Naismith women’s coach of the year and U.S. Basketball Writers Association coach of the year.

True to her nature, she was quick to credit her fellow coaches --associate head coach Kate Paye and the two new assistant coaches, Katy Steding and Britney Anderson – as well as the other staff people who helped to make the season so successful.

She also credited the mature leadership of fifth-year guard Anna Wilson, senior guard Kiana Williams and senior forward Alyssa Jerome.

External forces facing the team were social unrest, the contentious presidential election and the COVID pandemic, which upended everyone’s lives. Masks and social distancing became the norm along with testing for the players.

COVID changes everything

COVID was the biggest disrupter, starting back in the 2019-20 season when it caused the abrupt cancellation of the NCAA tournament.

Then cancellations and postponements in 2020-21 forced the team to be flexible, ready to adapt seemingly at a minute’s notice while taking classes remotely.

During the summer, the players were home, working out on their own and following individual plans crafted by strength and conditioning coach Ali Kershner.

Returning players created workout videos for the freshmen: guards Agnes Emma-Nnopu and Jana Van Gytenbeek and forward Cameron Brink.

There were weekly calls with notables like Nneka Ogwumike, ’12, and small group Zoom calls.

At one time a 15-player roster was envisioned, but, as allowed by NCAA rules, senior forward Maya Dodson elected to stay home in Georgia to focus on social justice. She later said she would transfer to Notre Dame as a grad student in the fall.

Guard Estella Moschkau graduated a year early and played as a grad student at the University of Wisconsin, her home state.

Roster reduced to 12 active players

Junior guard Jenna Brown became unavailable when she suffered a season-ending injury before competition began. Thus the roster was pared to 12 active players.

They returned to campus for the fall semester in September and lived in the same housing complex.

Cutouts of some former greats take the place of live fans. (Stanford Athletics)


Competition started Nov. 25 as the team romped over Cal Poly 108-40 in a fan-less Maples Pavilion. As was true throughout the season, the coaches and players were socially distanced and wore masks on the sidelines. Cutouts of fans and former players adorned the stands.

The starting lineup featured Kiana, Anna, junior guard Lexie Hull, sophomore guard Haley Jones and sophomore forward Fran Belibi, but everyone got in on the action. 

By then the few students who were on campus had left for the quarter break, but SWBB stayed until Santa Clara County health restrictions sent them on their long odyssey.

Lindy hosts team for two games

Lindy La Rocque, former Stanford assistant coach and alum, now head coach at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, gave the team a home for the next two games.

The team reciprocated by defeating her team 101-54 on Dec. 5. The next day, it dispatched Washington 81-50.  

The UNLV game had been scheduled at the last minute after Stanford’s home games against Pacific and San Diego University were cancelled because of the county’s restrictions. The Dec. 8 game against Washington State was postponed for COVID issues at WSU. The Dec. 11 home game against UC Davis also was cancelled.

Then it was back to the Bay Area to defeat Cal 83-38 on Dec. 13,  when Fran dunked, followed by a trip to the University of the Pacific in Stockton for a 104-61 win on Dec. 15.

Tara ties, then tops Pat Summitt’s record

The Cal game meant that Tara had tied the late Pat Summitt’s of Tennessee record of 1,098 wins. The Pacific game topped it at 1,099.

Tara shows off the T-DAWG jacket from her players. (Stanford Athletics)


After the Pacific game, the players clustered around Tara and gave her a black jacket with T-DAWG, their nickname for her, on the back.

Following a short break, the team traveled to Los Angeles to defeat USC 80-60 on Dec. 19 and UCLA 61-49 on Dec. 21, when Fran dunked again.

After a five-day break in Northern California with no official practice, the team continued its winning ways in the desert by defeating Arizona 81-54 on Jan. 1 and Arizona State 68-60 on Jan. 3.

Santa Cruz serves as temporary home

Listed as a home game for Stanford, the Jan. 8 game against Oregon was played in Santa Cruz’s Kaiser Permanente Arena.

Despite missing three players – Alyssa, Lexie and sophomore guard Hannah Jump – for contact tracing, Stanford prevailed over Oregon 70-63 on Jan. 8. Junior guard Lacie Hull replaced Lexie in the starting lineup.

Haley who lives near the arena, said her mother  helped to fuel the team with oatmeal cookies and brownies.

The Jan. 10 game against Oregon State was postponed because of COVID issues there.

Team suffers first and only two losses

With Lexie, Alyssa and Hannah back in action, the team coasted over Utah 82-54 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 15 but suffered its first loss on Jan. 17, falling at Colorado 77-72 in overtime.

Returning to Santa Cruz, the team suffered its second loss, 70-66 to UCLA on Jan. 22, but  bounced back to defeat USC 86-59 on Jan. 24.

Tara tweaked the starting lineup for the USC game, inserting Cameron in place of Fran. Tara stayed with that lineup – Cameron, Kiana, Anna, Lexie and Haley – for the rest of the season.

Traveling to the Evergreen State, Stanford swept Washington State 71-49 on Jan. 27 and 77-49 on Jan. 29, then traveled across the Cascades to brush off Washington 74-48 on Jan. 31.

Home sweet home

Hurrah! The team was allowed to return home to Maples for the first time since Nov. 25. It got revenge over Colorado with a 62-54 win on Feb. 5. It then beat Utah 83-41 on Feb. 7.

After a decisive 83-58 win at Oregon State on Feb. 13, the team gutted out a 63-61 squeaker at Oregon on Feb. 15.

The team was back in Maples for an 80-41 win over Arizona State on Feb. 19 and clinched the Pac-12 season championship with a 62-48 victory over Arizona on Feb. 22.

Tara joins Anna (left), Kiana and Alyssa in Maples for Senior Day on Feb. 28. (Stanford Athletics)


Celebrating Senior Day on Feb. 28, the team completed its regular season with a 72-33 home victory over Cal.

Cardinal capture Pac-12 tournament crown

Next it was off to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament. As the No. 1 seed, Stanford had a bye. It then swept its way to the championship by defeating USC 92-53 on March 4, Oregon State 79-45 on March 5 and  UCLA 75-55 on March 7 to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Kiana was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Lexie and Cameron were named to the all-tournament team.

Anna shows the grit that made her an outstanding defender. (Jed Jacobsohn/AP)


Earlier in the month, Anna was named the conference’s co-defensive player of the year and part of the all-defensive team. Lacie was named sixth player of the year. Lexie, Haley and Kiana were named to the 15-member all-conference team, and Cameron was named to the all-freshman team.

Six wins and it’s time to celebrate

Six wins at the NCAA tournament in San Antonio gave the team the national championship, the program’s third-ever and its first since 1992.

The championship path started with an 87-44 drubbing of Utah Valley on March 21 and a closer win over Oklahoma State, 73-62, on March 23.

The Sweet 16 was sweet with an 89-62 win over Missouri State on March 28 to advance to the Elite Eight. That’s when things got tougher.

Overcoming a 14-point deficit early in the third quarter, the Cardinal staged an epic comeback and defeated Louisville 78-63 on March 30.

Team ekes out two one-point games to win

Two Final Four nail biters nailed down the championship.

Sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel jumps for joy after the team edged South Carolina. (Getty Images)


First, Stanford defeated South Carolina 66-65 in the semi-final game April 2. One point also proved to be the winning margin against Arizona, when Stanford prevailed 54-53 on April 4 to capture the trophy. 

Both games were decided in the final seconds when the opponents unsuccessfully tried game-winning shots.


Haley and teammates are jubilant after clinching the NCAA crown. (Getty Images)


After the game, Haley was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, and Lexie was named to the all-tournament team, giving the Cardinal two of its five players.

Kiana was named a second team All-American, and Haley received honorable mention.

Stanford set a tournament record for three-pointers with a total of 55 in the six games.

Cameron, with 88 blocks this year, broke the single-season record set by Jayne Appel,’10, in 2007-08.

Kate, Tara and the trophy lead the celebratory parade. (Stanford Athletics)


Parade fetes returning heroines

Returning to campus April 5, the team and staff were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans as they paraded around campus and downtown Palo Alto in convertibles.

Ten days later, Kiana was in the spotlight again as she was claimed by the Seattle Storm in the second round of the WNBA draft.

Virtual banquet wraps up season

Still separated by Zoom, fans joined Tara as she emceed the April 18 virtual banquet honoring everyone who had made the championship season possible.

She gave a quick rundown of the season, when players first had to practice outside. She praised the team’s closeness, saying, “Our team is the definition of sisterhood.”

As is traditional, she introduced each player by class, starting with the freshmen and ending with the seniors. All of them thanked the fans for their support.

Haley spoke from South Carolina, where she was taking part in the 2021 USA AmeriCup Team trials.

Tara chatted with some illustrious former players and talked about the four recruits.

Several times she spoke of returning to Maples next season. She said she has invited Anna and Alyssa to return, as allowed by NCAA rules giving an extra year of eligibility to this year’s players. Kiana was already in Seattle with the Storm.

The other news emerging involved the schedule, which includes games against Gonzaga, Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas, a possible tournament in Hawaii and the always tough Pac-12.

The session ended with a slide show of season highlights, evoking happy memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 6, 2021

All hail to the champs; we love 'em

 Cameron, with Lexie and Anna, leaps over Aari McDonald after the final buzzer. (Getty Images)


It took two down-to-the-wire games, but the Stanford women’s basketball team has won the NCAA women’s national championship, the program’s third ever and its first since 1992.

First, Stanford defeated South Carolina 66-65 in the semi-final game on April 2.

Next the No. 1 overall seed eked out another one-point win and the championship by defeating No. 3 seed Arizona 54-53 in front of more than 4,600 people in San Antonio’s Alamodome on April 4.

In both games, the opponents tried game-winning shots, but they didn’t succeed.

In the Arizona game, Aari McDonald, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, had the ball and a chance to go ahead with only 6.1 seconds left.

Swarming defense saves the game in the final seconds

However, swarmed by fifth-year guard Anna Wilson, junior guard Lexie Hull and freshman forward Cameron Brink, she couldn’t get a clear shot and missed the basket, sending the Cardinal players into ecstasy.

As head coach Tara VanDerveer said right after the game, “It wasn’t a pretty game, but it was a gritty game.”

Even though she had to sit out the second quarter with two fouls, sophomore guard Haley Jones returned in the third quarter and helped to lead the team with 17 points. Cameron and Lexie (who also had 10 rebounds) were in double figures with 10 each.

Stanford had an eight-point lead, 16-8, after the first quarter, but Arizona outscored the Cardinal by seven points through the rest of the  game – just one point shy of what was needed.

The team committed 21 turnovers, while Arizona had six, a major factor in the tight game.

Arizona had six treys, while Stanford had four: one each by Lexie, Anna, senior guard Kiana Williams and sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel. Thus Stanford raised its three-point tournament record to 59.

Most numbers favor Stanford

On the other hand, Stanford had the advantage in rebounds, 47-29; assists, 15-6; points in the paint, 36-20; and blocks, 5-2. Cameron had three of them.

Writing in the April 5 SF Chronicle, columnist Scott Ostler reported that for the season, Stanford had more assists than its opponents, 543-296, and more blocks, 196-84, with 88 by Cameron.

The Chronicle’s Steve Kroner wrote, "No team has shot better than 41.8 percent against Stanford all season."

Arizona shot 28.8 percent in this game, Stanford 42.1 percent. In the earlier South Carolina game, Stanford shot 41.7 percent, South Carolina 35.8 percent.

Thus the team completed its season with a 31-2 record, and Tara racked up the women’s record high 1,125 career wins.

Tara completes the net cutting. (CNN)


After the game, the players received the national championship trophy, T-shirts and hats before cutting down the nets.


Haley and others cheer as dejected Arizona players leave the court. (Getty Images) 


They also learned that Haley had been named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Lexie was named to the all-tournament team, giving the Cardinal two of its five players.


Ashten jumps for joy after the squeaker over South Carolina. (Getty Images)


Team squeezes past South Carolina

In the earlier game, which also came down to the very last seconds, Stanford defeated South Carolina 66-65 on April 2 to advance to the championship game.

The team might have had to pack up and head home if the Gamecocks hadn’t missed two chances to score the winning basket at the end.

In those frantic last seconds, Stanford lost the ball, giving S. Carolina those two chances. After the second miss, Cameron grabbed the ball, thus safeguarding the win.

Haley, who led the team with 24 points, bookended the game, scoring both the first basket and the last, which proved to be the game winner.

Lexie corrals the ball in the South Carolina game. (Getty Images)


Lexie was the only other Cardinal in double figures, scoring 18 points to go with 13 rebounds for a double-double.

Also scoring were Ashten with nine, Kiana with eight, Cameron with six and junior guard Lacie Hull with one.

The game didn’t start well with two turnovers and a foul, which gave the Gamecocks two points in the first minute. They followed up with a 3-pointer, putting Stanford in a five-point hole.

First quarter starts rough, ends with tie

Stanford started scoring, but still was down nine points about halfway through the first quarter. However, thanks to a 9-0 Stanford run, the score was tied 15-15 to end the quarter.

In the meantime, Haley picked up her second foul, forcing her to sit out the rest of that quarter and all of the second before returning for the rest of the game.

Stanford notched its first lead, 17-15, early in the second quarter and expanded it to 31-25 at the half.

The third quarter ended 52-49 before the game ended with the one-point advantage.

Team sets records, earns honors

The Cardinal’s five 3’s meant it had set the record for most 3’s, 55, in the NCAA women’s tournament.

In this game, Haley and Lexie had two each. Ashten added the other.

Cameron, with 88 blocks this year, broke the single-season record set by Jayne Appel, ’10, in the 2007-08 season.

Tara received two more honors. She was named the Naismith Women’s coach of the year and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association coach of the year.

Kiana was named a second team All-American, and Haley received honorable mention.

Kate and Tara, with the trophy, lead the parade. (Stanford Athletics)


Campus parade honors the champs

Returning to campus April 5, the masked team and staff were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans as they paraded around campus in convertibles led by three motorcycle officers and several police vehicles and trailed by a fire engine, its siren blaring. Helicopters circled overhead.

Tara and associate head coach Kate Paye were in the first car holding the trophy. The other coaches and staff were in the next vehicles, and the players were in groups of two or three in the next ones.

Among the spectators was sophomore forward Fran Belibi’s mom, who had just returned from San Antonio, as well as several other fans who had been there.

Haley waves to cheering fans along the parade route. (Stanford Athletics)


Sporting Stanford apparel, people brought their kids and dogs. Stanford staffers handed out red pompons and Stanford signs.

Someone with a boom box played upbeat music, included a recording of the band playing “All Right Now.”

The parade was originally supposed to stay on campus, but it ventured into downtown Palo Alto, too.

When it disbanded in the Maples parking lot, the team and staff climbed aboard a hook-and-ladder truck to pose for photos with the trophy and a Stanford banner.

Then they walked into the back entrance of Maples to end the festivities.

  

March 31, 2021

Comeback kids headed for Final Four

 

Jubilation breaks out as the team celebrates its comeback over Louisville. (Eric Gay/AP)


Overcoming a deficit that was 12 points at the half and 14 points early in the third quarter, the Stanford women’s basketball team staged an epic comeback to defeat Louisville 78-63 on March 30 and advance to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.

The Cardinal will face the South Carolina Gamecocks in the semi-finals at 3 p.m. April 2. The game will be on ESPN.

Things looked bleak during the first half, when the team shot a dismal 35.29 percent in the first quarter, which ended with a 13-21 deficit; and an even worse 21.05 percent in the second, which left the team in a 26-38 hole.

Then came the third quarter with its improved 52.63 percent shooting, ending with the Cardinal behind only 48-50. During the fourth quarter, the team shot a sizzling 76.92 percent to hold Louisville to 13 points and ice the win.

As the SF Chronicle’s Ann Killion put it, “Sometime between the second and third quarters, the Cardinal players remembered who they were; the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. They remembered what they had been through on this journey…”

Long, winding road to San Antonio

That journey was one that had allowed the team only one home game before Santa Clara County COVID restrictions sent it on the road. A video clip shown before recent games recounts the team’s 63-day odyssey covering more than 7,100 miles.

However, as the old saying goes, “As the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That’s just what the team did.

A determined Lexie scored 21 points. (Eric Gay/AP)


Junior guard Lexie Hull led the team with 21 points to go with nine rebounds and three steals.

Ashten adds 16 points in 16 minutes

Coming off the bench in the second half, sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel helped to spark the comeback with 16 points in 16 minutes, plus three rebounds and two blocks.

Also in double figures were senior guard Kiana Williams with 14 points, four rebounds, four steals and five assists; and sophomore guard Haley Jones with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Although limited to 21 minutes after a brief trip to and from the locker room, freshman forward Cameron Brink did her part with nine points, four blocks and five rebounds.

The team had seven 3’s, below its usual double-digit tournament output, but they were big. Ashten had three, Kiana two, and Lexie and fifth-year guard Anna Wilson one each.

In the end, the Cardinal’s dominance showed not only in the score but in other areas: rebounds 45-37; blocks 7-3; steals 8-5; assists 16-11; points in the paint, 38-24; and more.

Stanford had fewer fouls, 6-17, and fewer turnovers, 9-10.

After that, it was time to celebrate and cut down the nets.

Anna steals the ball in the Missouri State game. (Morry Gash/AP)


Easy Sweet 16 win over Missouri State

Two days earlier, Stanford easily advanced to the Elite Eight by defeating Missouri State 89-62 on March 28.

Missouri State scored first, but after that Stanford took control with a dominating, balanced attack.

All 12 players got into the action, and 11 contributed in some way.

Sophomore guard Hannah Jump led the scoring with 17 points, followed by Kiana with 16, Anna with 13 and Haley with 11.

Team pours in 15 3’s

Fifteen 3’s accounted for just over half of the final score. Seven players got in on that action: Hannah buried five, Kiana four and Ashten two. Cameron, Anna, Lexie and Haley had one each.

Stanford bested Missouri State in the first three quarters, ending the third with a 34-point advantage, 71-37.

The Cardinal had a big advantage with assists, 24-11, blocks, 7-3 (five by foul-limited Cameron in just 10 minutes), points in the paint, 28-14; fast break points, 18-8; and steals, 8-3. Rebounds were closer, 45-43, with 10 by Ashten, eight by Haley and six by Anna.

Missouri State had four more turnovers, but was better at the free-throw line, making 63.6 percent to Stanford’s 61.5 percent. Both teams had 12 fouls.

Russell Wilson cheers for his sister, Anna, against Missouri State. (Getty Images)


Families, friends add support

Among the reported 1,072 attendees were family and friends of Stanford players. They included Anna’s older brother, Russell, and because San Antonio is Kiana’s hometown, a large contingent of her family and friends was there.

Sideline reporter Holly Rowe noted that Kiana’s parents have supplied the team with some tasty food as well as a ping pong table and gear, inspiring a tournament involving players and staff.

Besides Stanford and South Carolina, UConn and Arizona advanced to the Final Four, giving the Pac-12 two entrants.

In the meantime, Kiana was named most outstanding player in the Alamo Region, and Cameron and Lexie were named to the all-tournament team, giving Stanford three of the five slots on that team.

 

 

 

March 25, 2021

Two wins send team to Sweet 16

 

Lacie and Haley celebrate the tough win over Oklahoma State. (Stephen Spillman/AP)


Designated the overall No. 1 seed, Stanford opened its NCAA tournament run with an 87-44 first-round drubbing of Utah Valley in San Antonio on March 21 but had a tougher time in defeating Oklahoma State 73-62 on March 23 to advance to the Sweet 16 and face Missouri State at noon March 28.

Stanford led throughout the Oklahoma State game except for a brief  time when the Cowgirls tied it in the second quarter.

OSU outscored Stanford 23-19 in the third quarter and equaled the Cardinal 12-12 in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Stanford’s momentum from the first half.

Anna shoots. (Stephen Spillman AP)

Anna opens the game with two 3’s

Fifth-year guard Anna Wilson started Stanford’s scoring with two consecutive 3’s. Fans were glad to see her back in action after she had suffered what turned out to be a minor injury in the Utah Valley game.

Then fans got a scare about halfway through the third quarter when senior guard Kiana Williams limped off the court after a fall, but she returned to action for the fourth quarter.

By game’s end, seven players had made 3’s for the team’s total of 13. Kiana had four, while Anna had three. Sophomore guard Haley Jones, who doesn’t usually try 3’s, had two.

Also making one trey each were freshman forward Cameron Brink, junior guard Lexie Hull, sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel and junior guard Lacie Hull.


Eight players score

In all, nine players got into the game, and eight scored. Those in double figures were led by Haley with 17, followed by Kiana with 13, Cameron with 12 and Anna with 11.

Both teams had 16 turnovers, but Stanford had more assists, 16-14; rebounds, 36-33; and blocks, 6-2. On the other hand, OSU had 10 steals to Stanford’s seven.

Nevertheless, a win is a win, and in the NCAA tournament, it means advancing to the Sweet 16.


Kiana takes the ball upcourt against Utah Valley. (Charlie Riedel/AP)


Easy win against Utah Valley

The Utah Valley game was no contest from the start as the Cardinal stayed ahead the entire game and outscored UV in every quarter.

It also was an epic homecoming for Kiana, a San Antonio native, who led the team with 20 points in just 23 minutes. Later she showed off a T-shirt emblazoned with “She’s coming home.” The first ‘S’ was formed by the Stanford logo.

Cheered by a large contingent of fans like her parents, other relatives and friends as well as other players’ families , she opened the game with a 3-pointer that tied the Stanford career record of 295 set by Candice Wiggins, ’08. Later in the quarter she added another trey to break the record.

She finished the game with six 3’s, raising her overall total to 300. It was the most 3’s in a tournament game by a Cardinal since Karlie Samuelson, ’14, also had six against Kansas in 2014.

15 3’s make big difference in win

In the meantime, six others also made 3’s. Anna, Lacie and sophomore guard Hannah Jump had two each. Cameron, freshman guard Jana Van Gytenbeek and Ashten each added one for a team total of 15 on 33 attempts, or 45.5 percent success. Overall, the team shot 55.9 percent on its way to the 87-44 victory.

Another impressive number: Eleven players accounted for 24 assists (seven by Haley), meaning that about 27.6 percent of its points were assisted. Head coach Tara VanDerveer has always touted the team’s unselfishness. Or as one of the TV announcers put it, “Sharing is caring.”

All of this came with only eight turnovers on top of eight blocks and eight steals. Ten players accounted for the team total of 39 rebounds.

Everyone plays; starters get some rest

Utah Valley was no match for Stanford’s depth as all 12 players had seen action before the end of the second quarter, and no one played more than 23 minutes. Thus the starters had a chance to rest for the next contest with the others gained valuable experience.

The only scary part of the game came with just over seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter when Anna was injured in a fall. She lay on the court for a few minutes before limping off to see trainer Kaitlin Knox. She later returned to the bench.

During the post-game news conference, Tara said that she’ll probably be OK.

Jenna with the team in San Antonio

On another note: Junior guard Jenna Brown is with the team in San Antonio. She has missed the entire season with an injury but appears to be on the road to recovery.

Some more numbers: Tara raised her career winning record to 1,120. This was the team’s 90th tournament win and its 34th tourney, according to Associated Press.

The Oklahoma State game added one more win for Tara and the team.

 

March 9, 2021

They're the champs, and they're headed for Texas

 

Confetti showers the team and coaches after the UCLA win. (Las Vegas Review Journal)


Cheered by family members, the Stanford women’s basketball team completed its sweep of the Pac-12 by winning the conference tournament in Las Vegas after finishing on top during the season.

The Cardinal defeated UCLA 75-55 on March 7 to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Stanford began the conference tournament with a 92-53 blowout over USC on March 4.

Stanford dominates USC in first game

The outcome was never in doubt as the Cardinal dominated the Trojans in nearly every statistical category.

Haley and Cameron celebrate during the USC game.


While USC had no players in double figures, Stanford had four: sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel with a team-leading15 plus 11 rebounds for a double-double, sophomore guard Haley Jones with 14 plus 10 rebounds for another double-double, sophomore guard Hannah Jump also with 14 and junior guard Lacie Hull with 10. 

USC managed only two 3’s, while Stanford had 15, tying a tournament record set by Oregon last year, according to the TV announcers. Hannah had four, Lacie had three, and junior guard Lexie Hull and Ashten had two each.

Freshman forward Cameron Brink, fifth-year guard Anna Wilson, senior guard Kiana Williams and senior forward Alyssa Jerome had one each.

Stanford dominated on the glass with 54 rebounds to USC’s 33.

Bench players add 54 points

Bench players, who took over in the fourth quarter, contributed 54 points, one more than USC’s total score.

Everyone played, including Lacie, who had missed the two previous games with an injury, and everyone contributed in some way. Everyone played at least nine minutes, and no one played more than 22.

One concern: Free-throw shooting could have been better, only nine of 14, or 64.3 percent. Also, there were 14 turnovers, but they were offset by 21 assists. In fact, the first score came from an assist when Cameron passed to Haley as she made a back-door cut.

Interviewed after the game, Haley was asked about the team’s arduous season when COVID-19 restrictions forced it to play 16 consecutive games on the road, moving from hotel to hotel and living out of suitcases for more than two months. “We’re never giving up,” she said.

Slow start over OSU

Certainly the team didn’t give up against Oregon State the next day, March 5, when the first quarter ended in a 13-13 tie. By the end of the fourth quarter, though, Stanford had a 79-45 advantage.

OSU scored first and initially grabbed most of the rebounds. Stanford’s first basket didn’t come until the 6:48 mark, when Lexie scored, was fouled and made the free throw.

The second quarter began going the Cardinal’s way, ending 33-22 at the half.

The gap widened to 55-32 after three quarters, leading to victory at the end, when most of the bench players were in.

Cameron gets a high-five from a teammate in the OSU game. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)


Cameron scores career-high 24

Cameron proved to be a major factor in this victory, scoring a career-high 24 points to go with 11 rebounds, four blocks and only one foul – a marked improvement from some past games. With her obvious energy and enthusiasm, the TV announcers called her fiery.

Kiana wasn’t far behind with 20 points, followed by Lexie with 12 and Hannah with 10.

Nine treys helped the cause, with five from Kiana, two from Hannah and one each from Cameron and Lexie.

OSU’s early rebounding advantage vanished, too. Stanford finished with 48, OSU, 32.

Then there was the tough defense, signified by 10 steals while allowing only one OSU player to score in double figures. Unselfishness helped, with 15 assists and only five turnovers.

The team got a boost from the presence of several family members. Those shown on TV included members of the Hull, Williams and Wilson families.

Interviewed after the game, Tara called the victory “a great team win for us.”

20-point win over UCLA

Stanford logged another great win two days later, March 7, with its 75-55 defeat of UCLA for the championship.

TV viewers were initially frustrated when ESPN2 was showing a college wrestling tournament at game time. The game’s start was delayed, but it was already under way with Stanford ahead by the time I managed to find the right station.

The first quarter ended 24-11. The Stanford defense held UCLA to only nine points in the second quarter, while the offense scored 19, closing out the half at  43-20.

Team lags in third quarter, but revs up

Things got dicey in the third quarter when UCLA outscored Stanford 20-11, but still the quarter ended with Stanford up 54-40. Cold shooting and turnovers plagued the Cardinal. It also hurt that Cameron had to go to the bench with four fouls.

The Cardinal righted the ship in the fourth quarter, allowing head coach Tara VanDerveer to send in the bench to finish the game. In the meantime, Cameron had returned to action but fouled out with under six minutes to go.

Stanford had 10 3’s, thanks to six from Kiana, three from Lexie and one from Lacie.

Kiana goes for 3 against UCLA. (Erica Chang/Isiphotos.com)


Kiana also led the team in scoring with 26 points, followed by Lexie with 24 and Haley with 10, plus 13 of the team’s 38 rebounds.

While the players received championship hats and T-shirts and were showered with red and white confetti, Tara was interviewed and said, “This is just the beginning of a great tournament run. … We were tough.”

Cardinal rack up conference, tournament honors

It came as no surprise to anyone when Kiana was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. In addition, Lexie and Cameron were named to the all-tournament team.

Anna's defense, as here in the OSU game, merited Pac-12 defensive honors. (Bryan Steffy/AP)


Earlier in the month, Stanford collected conference honors. Anna was named co-defensive player of the year and part of the all-defensive team. Lacie was named sixth player of the year. Lexie, Haley and Kiana were named to the 15-member all-conference team, and Cameron was named to the all-freshman team.

To top it off, Tara was named coach of the year.

Next up for the Cardinal is the NCAA tournament, which starts March 21 in the San Antonio area. It ends with the championship game April 4 in San Antonio.

Brackets and teams will be announced during the selection show March 15.

In the meantime, the players can focus on academics before classes end March 19. Spring quarter starts March 29.

Although Texas has lifted COVID restrictions, Tara told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ann Killion that Stanford will continue to follow all the precautions that helped it get so far.

“The Stanford team is determined that, even in a state where the governor thinks magically declaring the pandemic over makes it so, it will keep all eyes on the ultimate goal,” Killion wrote.

“ ‘Our team has been very disciplined,’ VanDerveer said. ‘We’ve worked very hard to get here. We are focused on playing well. We do not want to test positive.’”

And as the TV announcer said during the USC game, March is Tara time.