Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wow! Simply Wow!

By Wally Mersereau

Saturday in Seattle was chilly and dry. Dry was appreciated. Sunday had a sprinkle or two and was a little colder, but generally the same.

Mount Rainer was visible from the airport and from the UW campus where I went for a stroll on Saturday afternoon. The light rail line from the airport has been extended to the university with the terminus right at Husky Stadium. A block beyond is Hec Ed Pavilion. From the Westlake Station near my downtown hotel it’s a 6-minute ride to the university and trains run at 10-minute intervals. No more taxi, Uber or Lyft. An all-day senior ticket good for unlimited riding cost only $2.

I learned the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition was held on the UW campus in 1909 and that the campus statue of George Washington was commissioned for and unveiled at the exhibition.

On Saturday I took in a Chuck Close show at the Henry Art Museum located right under George’s feet.

Why can’t somebody successfully accomplish a Pack the House at Stanford? This promotion was a complete success for Washington fans. The arena was sold out with 10,000 in attendance. I heard that general admission tickets were only $5 if you wore purple. I can attest that every seat was filled. I also can attest that 10,000 fans can make a lot of noise and can add momentum for the home team and be intimidating for the visiting team while creating an exciting atmosphere.

When I entered Alaska Airlines Arena I thought Stanford was almost certain to lose. I did not think Plum or Osahor could be contained. I knew it was possible Stanford could win, but I thought this was so unlikely that it was merely wishful thinking. I did not see a path to victory. Several Washington players were making three after three during the pregame shoot-around and this clinched my pessimistic mood.

The first half confirmed my gloomy expectations. Washington led by 9 at the end of the first quarter and by 12 at the half. I expected the Huskies would continue to build their lead in the second half. Doubling Kelsey Plum was not working. She seemed to be running wild and had 22 points by halftime. And other UW players were stepping up to take advantage of Stanford’s focus on Plum and Osahor. I did not look forward to the second half.

Tara and her team thought otherwise. I don’t know what halftime adjustments Tara came up with, but something turned the tide. I had given up hope, but the team had not. Somehow they were able to dig deep and find what it took to climb uphill to a win.

Instead of the Washington lead continuing to build, it began to shrink. Before you knew it the Husky lead was down to 7 and then down to 4. A vocal Husky fan near me began to worry out loud about the shrinking lead. I still thought Kelsey Plum and her team would soon put a stop to upstart Stanford and again take control of the game. But at the end of the third quarter the score was 50-55. For the first time I began to think the Cardinal had a chance, if whatever was working continued to work.

The fourth quarter was a miracle. Stanford did not falter. Kelsey Plum kept scoring, but had to sit with four fouls. Then Osahor got four fouls as did one other Husky player. Erica also had four fouls and then Brittany joined the club. Stanford tied the game and the lead then went narrowly back and forth to the last tick of the clock. With two minutes left I could see that Stanford was more likely to win than Washington. It’s good to be ahead when time is running out.

The second half was a great team effort. Erica and Brit avoided their fifth foul while continuing to play wonderfully well. Marta came through with much more than her usual contribution. And Brianna Roberson could do no wrong in the second half. Her scoring has been improving slightly in recent games, but she turned into a junior-grade Kelsey Plum in Seattle, ending with 14 points.

In the final minute Plum fouled out after reaching 44 points. Osahor was held to 9 points and all other Washington players added a total of only 15 points. In the end it was Kelsey Plum carrying her team on her back and she could not do it alone. She got stuck at 42 points for a lot of minutes while Stanford was doing the impossible.

Washington won the first half 33-45, but Stanford won the second half 45-23. To my surprise and amazement it was the Cardinal that dug down and pulled out a win, the greatest win of the season.

There was a rotation of 7 Cardinal players with 12 minutes or more. Karlie again played all 40 minutes and had 10 points, but she made no threes. Brittany, playing in her hometown, led Stanford scoring with 17 points and did a bit of everything. The astonishing Bri added 14 points, many of them at critical moments. And dependable Erica, after a slow start, ended with 16 points.

I’m glad Stanford will not play Washington again in the regular season, but my confidence in the team certainly has been strengthened. To come back against Kelsey Plum in front of 10,000 rabid Husky fans was a great accomplishment. To win this game took determination and guts and the nice girls from Stanford had plenty of both on Sunday evening.

I left Alaska Airlines Arena with euphoric feelings I could not imagine when I entered.

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