I’m having a ball watching 11-year-old girls play basketball

Photo credit: @UAFindlayNews

By Jerry Feitelberg

As a young man many, many years ago, I never thought women would be playing basketball. When I was in college, the only sports played by the women were field hockey and archery. The thought of women playing basketball never entered my mind.

However, the world has changed over the last 50 or 60 years, and with the passage of Title IX, women have now become active in soccer, ice hockey, basketball, rowing, lacrosse, and baseball and softball. I remember women competing for Olympic medals in gymnastics, figure skating, skiing, track and field, and swimming.

In the past 20 years or so, women at the University of Tennessee, the University of Connecticut, and Stanford University have won NCAA championships. The Women’s rowing team at my alma mater, Bates College, won the Division III National championship in 2015. It was the first national championship for this college in any sport, and that included all the sports that the men competed in, too.

So all this brings me to my story. About two weeks ago, I was invited to see a game between Almaden Country Day School and the Los Altos Christian schools’ sixth-grade girls. These young women, none of them over five-feet-tall, played on a regulation 94-foot court and the basket was not lowered at all. It remained at 10-feet. The only adjustment made was that the free throw line was moved in about five feet, so that the girls could make the free throw from 10-feet instead of the normal 15-foot charity stripe,

There were two referees present and the time of the game was shortened to three 8-minute quarters of play. Also, it was running time. The coaches tried to give every girl on the team a chance to play. Each team wanted to win, but the coaches also made sure that the girls were having fun and that they learn how to be good sports and be gracious should they lose the game.

One has to remember that the girls are not going to set a screen, there would not be any pick and rolls or give and go as they do at the college and pro level. None of that stuff here.There would be no one-on-one or isolation. What the girls did was run and pass the ball and try to get off the shot. Some used the backboard to bank the ball in, and some made a basket getting the ball up high enough to go in without touching the rim. They were stealing the ball and trying to block shots. They were aggressive players and fouled their opponents.

My lovely companion’s granddaughter had a nice game as she made two baskets and had three rebounds as Almaden Country Day School skunked the Los Altos Christian Lions 25-0. After the game, the girls shook hands and gave hugs to their opponents and a good time was had by not only the girls but by their parents and grandparents.

Trojans Upset Cardinal on Ogwumike’s Record Setting Night

By Joe Lami

For the first time ever the Stanford Cardinal will not be going to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, as the USC Trojans defeated the Cardinal 72-68 in the semi-finals on Saturday night.  Stanford the number one seed and the favorite to win the Pac-12 Championship, is now unsure of how their NCAA Tournament is going to look.  If the Cardinal came out of the Pac-12 Tournament unscathed, they would have received an almost sure bid to a number one seed in their host west region.

The first half ended with the score tied at 32.  Stanford dominated the paint in the first half, with 18 points.  However, the Trojans led the first with points off of turnovers, bench points and 2nd chance points.

Coming out of the half, the Trojans jumped on the Cardinal early, going on a 14-4 run in the first 5:30.  Stanford would be able to crawl back slowly, and would eventually take the lead back with 6:46 remaining.  The Cardinal would push the lead to three, at 60-57 with 5:06 to go and be able to hold it for a couple of minutes.  However, the Trojans would once again march back, much in part to Cassie Harberts’ ten straight points.  This would get the USC lead to as high as seven before the Cardinal would find another bucket with 61 seconds to go.

The Cardinal pressed in the final minute to get the deficit as low as two, but the Trojans would be good enough at the foul line to be able to ice the game away and advance to the Pac-12 Championship game, where they will face the Oregon State Beavers.

Chiney Ogwumike led the way for the Cardinal with 30 points and 21 rebounds.  The 30 points ties her with Stanford Alum, Candice Wiggins as the all-time Pac-12 scorer with 2,629.  Unfortunately for Ogwumike, she scored career point 2,629 with over seven minutes remaining in the game, and couldn’t find another to break the record in game where every point mattered.

Stanford had an awful day from the field, finishing the game at just 32%.  Lili Thompson finished with 13 points, going 4 of 11 shooting.  Amber Orrange was the only other double digit scorer for the Cardinal, as she finished the night with 11 points and 3 of 11 shooting.  Mikaela Ruef was held scoreless for the first time in recent memory, as the fifth year senior went 0 for 8 from the field, but she did bring down five rebounds.  Taylor Greenfield was the only Stanford player to come off of the bench and contribute points, as she finished the game with five.

The Trojans didn’t shoot that much better, as they finished the game shooting just 39%.  USC also saw three different players get into double digits.  Alexyz Vaioletama led the way with 19 points.  She also contributed 15 rebounds, with five of them coming on the offensive side of the glass.  Guard, Ariya Cook, finished the game with 15 points.  Game MVP, Cassie Harberts only had 13 points, but ten of them came at the most opportune time, as she scored ten straight with under three minutes to go to give the Trojan’s a lead good enough to win the game.

The win for the Trojans gets them that much closer into the NCAA tournament, as ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the ladies of USC on his first four teams out of the tournament.  However, with this win it might just be enough to break the bubble and earn a bid.  That is if they don’t receive the automatic bid on Sunday afternoon by winning the Pac-12 Tournament.  Oregon State, their opponent on Sunday is looked at as already in the NCAA Tournament according to Creme.

Number four-ranked Stanford has their record drop to 29-3, and now they are a little unsure on how they will be entering the NCAA Tournament.  Some questions arise, is Stanford still a number one seed?  Does Stanford still deserve to be in the west region, their host region?  Only time will tell what the selection committee decides, but for now we sit back and prepare for another great day of Championship basketball on Sunday.

Ogwumike Shines in Final Game, Cardinal Beat Cougars to Finish Undefeated at Home

By: Joe Lami

Chiney Ogwumike enjoyed her final regular season game at Maples Pavilion.  As she led her team to victory over the Washington State Cougars by the final score of 84-64.  Ogwumike finished her Cardinal career with a new career high 37 points, 21 of them came in the first half.  Ogwumike also added 13 rebounds to achieve her 22nd double-double of the season.  She also achieved her 30th double figure scoring game of the year and later achieved her 13th 30-point game of the season.  She stated after the game “I really don’t care about points and statistics, all I care is that I do enough for us to win, even if I only score two points.”   She later added on her feelings of Saturday’s game “It just felt like another game.  I just care that we won, and that we are playing better basketball going into the post season.  We are growing as a team and that’s what matters.”

The Cardinal started the first half strong, getting the first five points of the game and forcing Washington State to call an early timeout.  Stanford led the entire first half, but did have struggles shooting from beyond the arc.  Stanford went 3 for 13 from three-point range in the first half with Bonnie Samuelson knocking two of them down.  Brianna Roberson drained the other.

Roberson, a freshman, had her most impressive half of her young Cardinal career.  She finished the first half with eight points, a new career high.  Roberson also added a rebound and an assist in the seven minutes that she played.  She finished the game with eight points, as she didn’t see much playing time in the second half.

The Cardinal shot the lights out from the free throw line, as they finished the first half going 14 of 15, for a 93%.

Stanford came out of the second half strong, as they went on a 10-0 run to start things up in the first 4:47.  The Cardinal defense came to play in the second half only allowing 23 points, forcing the Cougars to shoot a dreaded 28%.

Even though the Cardinal held Washington State to 64 points, three different Cougars got into double figures.  They were led by Lia Galdeira, who finished with 16 points.  Both Tia Presley and Sage Romberg finished the game with ten points each.

Amber Orrange went under the radar once again, but had one of her best performances of the year.  The Junior Point Guard finished just two points shy of her career high, scoring 20 points.  She also finished the game with eight rebounds.  “This was one of Amber’s best nights she’s ever had for us” stated head coach, Tara VanDerveer.  VanDerveer also pulled Orrange aside and congratulated her on a great performance.  The key to Orrange’s night “I was being a lot more aggressive.”

The Cardinal finish the year undefeated at home going into the Pac-12 tournament next week.  They will be ranked the first seed and will get a first round bye, and will play their first game on Friday, March 7.

Stanford Remains Unbeaten at Home

By Joe Lami

Stanford (24-2,13-1) returned to action just two days after one of their most impressive performances of the season, defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils 61-35.  On Sunday, the sixth ranked Cardinal played host to the struggling Arizona Wildcats (5-20, 1-13).  Stanford defeated Arizona 74-48.

Arizona was coming into the contest with just five wins on the season, with a record of 5-19.  Only one of those wins has come in Pac-12 play.  The Wildcats started the game strong as they got the first bucket of the afternoon.  They would be able to keep up with the Cardinal for the first 5:30 of the game.  The game was tied at 11-11 before the Cardinal would take over.  Stanford would go on a ten minute 24-4 run before Arizona would hit their next field goal.  Arizona was only able to mustard up another field goal and two free throws to end the half.  Stanford was on top at the half by the score of 48-19.

Stanford would cruise to victory in the second half.  Arizona outscored the Cardinal in the second half 29-26.  However, Stanford played their reserves for most of the second half.  Chiney Ogwumike, who plays as much time as possible, only saw 22 minutes in the win, being her season low on minutes played this season.  The starter who saw the most minutes played was Amber Orrange, and she capped out at 24 minutes.

Bonnie Samuelson led the Cardinal in scoring with 17 points, 15 of which came from beyond the arc.  Ogwumike finished with 15 points.  Lili Thompson and Orrange both had nine points in the game.  Orrange also had an astonishing nine assists.

Only six Wildcats played for Arizona.  Candice Warthen, Kama Griffitts and Keyahndra Cannon all played 40 minutes.  LaBrittney Jones led the team in scoring with 11 points.  She was the only Wildcat to get into double digits in scoring.

The Cardinal will finish off the road portion of their schedule next weekend as they travel to Los Angeles to take on USC on Friday and UCLA on Sunday.

Stanford Shuts Down Sun Devils

By: Joe Lami

The Stanford Cardinal (23-2,12-1) returned to Maples Pavilion on Friday night, just five days after their disappointing loss in Seattle, to Washington on Sunday.  The Cardinal made up for it with a dominating performance over the Arizona State Sun Devils (20-5,9-4) with a 61-34 victory.

The Cardinal held the Sun Devils to one of the lowest scoring totals in Pac-12 history, with Arizona escaping that mark by one point.  The Cardinal’s impressive defense started early, as they held Arizona State to without a field goal until eight minutes into the first half.  This gave Stanford 14-3 lead, following a field goal and a free throw. “They had great defensive energy early, we never got into the flow of the game” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

The dominance continued as Stanford went into halftime leading the Sun Devils 32-12.  This is the 2nd time in Pac-12 history that Stanford has held an opponent to the least amount of points scored in a first half.  Arizona State shot 17% from the field in the first half, and it didn’t get much better from the charity strike, as they went two of seven from the line.

The second half wasn’t much better for the Sun Devils, as they continued to struggle shooting 30% from the field for a total game percentage of 24%.  The Sun Devils also finished the game shooting 8% from beyond the arc, as they only hit one shot in the 12 shots attempted.  It was an overall great defensive performance for the Cardinal, especially coming off of only their second loss of the season.  “We haven’t been this excited to play defense in a long time, and I’m excited that we are again” said star Chiney Ogwumike.

The Stanford defense kept the Sun Devil players from getting into double digits, as both Promise Amukamara and Sophie Brunner led Arizona State in scoring with nine points.  The leading scorer for the Sun Devils in the first meeting between these two top 15 opponents, Quinn Dornstauder, was held to only six points.

The offense was no slouch either for the Cardinal, as they had an impressive game on that side of the ball as well.  Stanford finished the game shooting 54% from the field.  Ogwumike led all scorers with 20 points in only 27 minutes of playing time, as she sat on the bench for the final 13 minutes of the game.  The player of the year candidate also finished with 13 rebounds, all of which came in the first half.  Amber Orrange had another amazing performance, as she finished the game with 14 points, five steals, three rebounds and three assists. “Amber took it upon herself to be the engine of the train” praised head coach, Tara VanDerveer, on Orrange’s performance.

The minutes were passed around equally for one of the first times this season, as 14 different players got into the game.  Out of those 14 players that saw time, ten of them got onto the scoring sheet.

With Friday’s game being one of the best performances of the season, there was still some criticism that came out of it.  One of which was the fact that Stanford had 17 turnovers.  “We have to play better, we have to take care of the ball better” commented VanDerveer.  Another problem that has been reoccurring all season is that Stanford has been giving up way too many offensive rebounds.  That trend would continue on Friday, as Arizona State had 12 offensive boards.   Of the 12 offensive rebounds, Arizona State was able to have eight second-chance points off of them.

Both teams struggled from beyond the arc, Arizona State more so than Stanford.  The Sun Devils shots one of 12 from three.   Stanford finished scoreless, but only had four attempts.  The three-pointer was not in the game plan mentioned VanDerveer after the game.

Stanford bounced back great, as they up their record to 23-2, 12-1.  Thus almost clinching the Pac-12 regular season title.  As long as they don’t fall off of the wagon, they will get the title.  Stanford looks to make it once step closer towards the regular season title, as they host the Wildcats of Arizona.

Ogwumike Makes History in Stanford Win

Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By: Joe Lami

Friday night marked the first game of the Pac-12 season for the Stanford Cardinal, and it was one to remember for Chiney Ogwumike.  Ogwumike became the all-time Stanford and Pac-12 rebound leader, as she surpassed Kayla Pederson with career rebound 1,267.

The Senior All-American was quite humble afterwards as she said “Records are great headlines, but I’m more excited about Bonnie (Samuelson) going 6 of 9 from three, Amber with eight assists and the contribution of the Freshman.” Samuelson added that it makes things a lot easier when you have the best player in the country on your team, and Ogwumike smirked and rolled her eyes in a joking sort of way.

Even though that there was a major record that was broken on Friday, there was still a game of basketball that was played, and a great one as the Oregon Ducks came into town.  Oregon came into the contest with a record of 9-2, with losses to Sacramento State and number one Connecticut.  Oregon was riding a seven-game winning streak and was ranked number one in the country in points scored per game, averaging over 105.

Stanford had put a stop to this holding the Ducks to 66 points, in what head coach, Paul Westhead, called “a joke” in the 96-66 Stanford win.

Stanford played all-around great defense, as it was something that Tara VanDerveer praised about all of the game.  The key was holding, Chrisae Rowe, a freshman guard averaging nearly 25 points per game to only 11.  “They tagged Rowe really well, that’s one of Stanford’s strengths” said Westhead.

The Cardinal were of course led by Ogwumike who scored 33, and had 14 rebounds.  Bonnie Samuelson hit a career high 21 points, 18 of them came from beyond the arc, as she was lights out.  Production was great for the Cardinal, as all but three players that saw playing time scored.  Mikaela Ruef was strong once again, with eight points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals.  Freshman, Karlie Samuelson played 13 minutes, scoring three on a three-pointer and she had one assist that came on a three made by her sister.

Stanford was lights out from beyond the arc as well, as they shot 50%, 12 of 24, “something that I’d take any night” said VanDerveer.  The first half was even more impressive, as it seemed like they couldn’t miss going 9 of 16 from downtown.  With the three starting to fall for the Cardinal, it relieved pressure off of Ogwumike and allowed her to work inside.

Oregon was held to their lowest scoring total of the season with 66.  Leading the way for them was Jillian Alleyne, the second highest scorer on the team going into the night.  Alleyne scored 26, and “took the most over her opportunities, as she was open down low, after we guarded the 3-point line” said VanDerveer.  Alleyne also finished the double-double adding 13 rebounds.  Starters, Ariel Thompson and Rowe both had 11.

The Ducks fall to 9-3, with a 0-1 record in Pac-12 play.  Oregon next travels to Berkley, to take on the number 23 ranked Bears Sunday to finish off their first weekend of Pac-12 play. The Bears won their opening game on Friday as well, which should make traveling through the Bay Area a tough trip this season.

“It was a good first game for our team to start off Pac-12 play” said VanDerveer, as the Cardinal improve their record to 12-1 and their conference record to 1-0.  The other team from Oregon is up next for Stanford, as the Oregon State Beavers take on the Cardinal on Sunday at Maples.  Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

Stanford Women’s Hoops gets the Win to Start the Season

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By: Joe Lami

The Cardinal took to the road to start the 2013-2014 campaign, and they start it with a victory, beating the Boston College Eagles by the final score of 83-70.

The Cardinal were led by non other than their pre-season All American center Chiney Ogwumike scoring 30 points and picking up 14 rebounds.  Stanford also had some amazing help from Junior point guard Amber Orrange who scored 19, dished 10 assist and was just one rebound away from accumulating the triple-double.  Bonnie Samuelson came off the bench to score 15, with nine of those coming from beyond the three-point line.

Boston College was led by their senior forward, Kristen Doherty, who scored 16 points. Right behind her and coming off the bench putting up15 points was Shayra Brown.  Stanford dominated the boards, out rebounding the Eagles 44-26 with the offensive battle going in Stanford favor as well 17-11.  Though Stanford did lose the turnover battle by four, they were still able to squeak out the 13-point victory.

This win, for the Cardinal, brings coach Tara VanDerveer, to win number 895, just five away of the prestigious 900 mark.  She would become just the fifth coach in women basketball to do so as well, joining the ranks of legendary coaches Pat Summit and Jody Conradt.

Up next for the Cardinal is what very well could be their toughest challenge of the entire season, as they travel to Storrs, Connecticut , to go up against the number one team in the country, UConn.  Stanford will look for its’ revenge after last season’s 61-35 embarrassing loss against the Huskies breaking its 82 home game winning streak.  The game is on Monday, November 11, and can be found on ESPN 2 as a national broadcast.  Tip-off is set for 4pm.