Tourney Bid at Stake After Cal's Loss to Stanford in Final Contest

Photo: <b>Alexis Gray-Lawson</b> led the Bears with 15 points in her final regular season game at Haas Pavilion. With Saturday's loss, Cal finishes fourth in the Pac-10 and will play Arizona State on Friday.
Anna Hiatt/Staff
Alexis Gray-Lawson led the Bears with 15 points in her final regular season game at Haas Pavilion. With Saturday's loss, Cal finishes fourth in the Pac-10 and will play Arizona State on Friday.

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Instead of focusing on those taking the court for Saturday's game against Stanford, all attention was directed toward the Cardinal bench and why Jayne Appel was sitting on it.

There weren't many surprises during the Cal women's basketball team's final game of the season at Haas Pavilion. The league-leading Stanford squad did what most expected: it earned the 63-48 win, completed its undefeated conference record, and went on to justify its role as the second-ranked team in the nation.

The biggest surprise was reserved for the sideline.

Appel-Stanford's All-American center-was camped out on the end of Stanford's bench, weighed down by a walking boot on her right foot. The senior sustained a low-ankle sprain during Tuesday's practice, but the injury wasn't announced until the morning of Saturday's contest.

Without the 6-foot-4 center on the court, the Bears' chances of stealing a win from the regular-season champions were greatly improved. Players like junior Kayla Pedersen and sophomore Nnemkadi Ogwumike were, however, primed to take over.

"Kayla and Nnemkadi I think just had a pact saying, 'Jayne's out, but it's not all about Jayne,'" Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

Pedersen picked up any slack shooting 9-for-15 with a team-high 23 points, and Ogwumike contributed 22 points and 14 rebounds of her own.

That was how it ended-Stanford (28-1, 18-0 in the Pac-10) shooting 40-percent and leading by as much as 16 points in the second half. But while both squads struggled to adapt to a contest without Appel, Cal shot just 25.8-percent and Stanford finished the first half with a just a 26-19 lead.

"Instead of making things happen we were waiting for things to happen and reacting," Pedersen said. "It shouldn't have to take a halftime talk to realize what we need to do."

Cal (17-12, 11-7) held the lead for the first five minutes of the contest, but after breaking a 6-6 tie, the Cardinal continued to gain ground on the Bears for the remaining 35 minutes.

"I think we got frustrated and we got so slow and methodical," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "And nothing came easy so we just felt like our feet were in mud even more It just comes down to, 'When are we going to get a break.'"

Alexis Gray-Lawson led the Bears with 15 points, shooting just 4-for-13, but left the court to a standing ovation-courtesy of Cal fans and the Cardinal contingent.

The senior was speechless after being asked about the prospect of never again playing in Haas Pavilion, which will be the Bears' fate if they don't receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. After dropping its final two games of the season, there's even more emphasis on the Bears' performance in the conference tournament where they'll meet Arizona State in the quarterfinals, after a first-round bye.

"It is what it is at this point; there's no sugar coating it," Boyle said. "There's no pretending like just take one game at a time. It's ASU and done, or ASU and move on."


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]

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