Saturday, March 30, 2013

It Was Great While It Lasted

By Wally Mersereau

While it ended too soon, this season’s team represented a great success by a wonderful team of players and coaches. Tara’s selection as Pac-12 Coach of the Year was recognition by her peers of her remarkable feat in teaching these young women and shaping this team. Chiney’s Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards honored her leadership, talent and skill-- and a huge amount of heart—as she rose from Nneka’s helper to shining star, while dazzling everyone with her enthusiasm and personality.

By making Stanford women’s basketball the highest priority in my life, and having the good fortune of both good weather and good health, I was able to attend every game played this season. The final season tally is 33 wins and 3 losses. That makes thirty-six games, plus a couple of exhibitions to get warmed up on. My longest trip was the one to South Carolina and Tennessee. That took five flights over six days.

So, was it worth it? Of course it was. It has been a privilege to support such a high-class endeavor and such wonderful people that have given me enormous pleasure year after year. I have been repaid many times over for my expenditure of time, money and emotion.

There were some great games, including picking off #1 Baylor in Hawaii. There was another Pac-12 championship and another Pac-12 Tournament victory to put in the record books. There was a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There was the nearly perfect Michigan game. There was the consistently outstanding defense up and down the roster. How many teams would be overjoyed to do half as well?

We have seen one of the best players to ever wear a Stanford uniform and, happily, Chiney will return for another season. We have seen quiet Amber grow into a reliable, versatile and confident point guard. We have seen Sara and Mikaela bloom lately but well.

We have seen Joslyn struggle through illnesses we didn’t know she had to end her career with a dazzling performance in her final game at Maples. We have seen Bonnie broaden her contributions and provide thrills with her quick-release threes. Toni’s illness was the only major health problem. All but Jos will return next year.

In the end there were shortcomings that couldn’t be eliminated or overcome. Too much reliance on too few. Too much inconsistency by too many. And maybe a few unlucky bounces of the ball. I had hoped for another trip to the Final Four, but it was not to be. The players gave their all, but in the end it was not enough.

Losing is never fun. Especially when Stanford fans are so used to winning. The loss to Georgia hurt, but not nearly as much as the loss two years ago to Texas A&M.

It’s been a great ride. I thank Tara, Amy, Kate, Trina, Kurtis, Marcella and Eileen. I thank every player from Chiney to Denia and Kiran for their individual and collective dedication, contributions and teamwork. I thank the band and the Dollies for their constant support. I thank my fellow fans.

It was great while it lasted. Next season it will begin again. There will be some exciting new players.

Don’t go away. Stanford women’s basketball will return once more and the future is bright with promise. I can hardly wait.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tournament Time!

This post is a big bucket o' good stuff to make your Tournament experience better, including on-site scouting by Wally Mersereau who spent hours checking out the Seattle Center for us last weekend!

The Bracket and Schedule

The official bracket with teams and times is here (scroll down). Note there was a late change in times! Sometime last weekend they inverted the Friday and Saturday schedules. This is current:

  • Cal plays its first game at noon Friday.
  • Stanford plays its first game at 6pm on Friday.
  • Assuming both advance, Cal plays at 6pm Saturday, and
  • Stanford plays at 8:30pm Saturday.

Late-breaking news: The Stanford basketball office is sponsoring a get-together at The Spectator, a sports bar at 529 Queen Anne Ave., just West of Key Arena, on Friday at 4pm.

Arrival: Ride the Light Rail to Town

If your hotel is in downtown Seattle or close to Seattle Center, you can ride direct from SeaTac on the Sound Transit Light Rail (click for map and info). So you needn't get a rental car at all, or at least not until you want to go sightseeing Saturday morning. Wally writes:

Seattle has a good public transit system and it's a bargain. The best bargain of all is to take the light rail line from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to downtown. This costs $2.75 for most riders, but those of a certain age pay only 75 cents. 75 cents! Imagine that! The airport line ends about 30 minutes later at the Westlake Station on Pine Street, next to the Monorail that for another $2 will take you to Seattle Center. For seniors the Monorail costs $1!

There's a bit of a trick to finding the best way to get to the light rail station at Seattle-Tacoma airport. Here are the steps for ease and comfort:

Go to the ticket counter level of the airport. Go to the north end, past the United counters to the Air Canada counter. Opposite the Air Canada counter will be an escalator down to Skybridge 6 to the parking garage. Going to Skybridge 6 will keep you inside the warm airport terminal as long as possible.

Cross Skybridge 6 and follow the signs to Link Light Rail. This takes you quite a long way through an unattractive part of the garage. But it's the shortest and quickest path to the light rail station.

Buy your ticket from a vending machine on the lower level of the light rail station. There are no vending machines on the upper level platform. The machines take credit cards or bills and they give change. After getting your ticket go up the escalator to the platform from which trains leave frequently. You don't have to do anything with your ticket, just have it with you for inspection. Inspections are rare.

More on the Seattle Transit system: "Buses are $2.25 to $3, depending on length of trip and time of day. Seniors can ride any time, anywhere on the bus for 75 cents. You do need the exact fare. And if you use Seattle's public transit you don't have to pay to park. That's the greatest bargain of all."

Around the Seattle Center

The Seattle Center is the site of a number of interesting attractions besides the Key Arena. Click this link for a nice printable map of the center showing its various buildings and especially the location of parking. There are several other things worth noting:

  • Free wi-fi is available in many buildings and open spaces (but it's not clear if that includes Key Arena).
  • Tournament weekend the Center is also hosting the International Gem and Mineral Show. This may create some competition for parking.
  • At the always-interesting Experience Music Project, the featured exhibit is The Art of Video Games, along with several other exhibits.
  • This is coordinated with "Video Arcade: a hands-on gaming experience" at the next door Interactive Media Museum.
  • The Chihuly Garden is a permanent exhibit of the monumental glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly, some outdoors and some in a handsome glass house.
  • There are also two IMAX theaters, currently showing "Flight of the Butterflies in 3D", "Hubble 3D", and "The Last Reef 3D".
  • There's the Pacific Science Center with a number of exhibits.

Eating Places

The Center also has a food hall in the Armory building of which Wally writes:

The Armory name comes from the origins of this building which was constructed in 1939 as a military facility, housing artillery and tanks. It was modified into a shopping complex for the 1962 World's Fair. It was most recently spruced up in 2011.

It's a food court with a Starbucks, a Subway, a kebab place, a pizza place, a meat & veggie pie place, a couple of sandwich shops, a glazed nut stand, Seattle Fudge and some salad spots. A cursory look indicated, except for Starbuck's and Subway, it's probably no better than mediocre and the Starbucks and Subway might be below average. This is the most convenient eating location for the tournament except for concessions within Key Arena. It's the equivalent of being one block away. It is open Sun-Thurs 11 am to 6 pm and Fri-Sat 11 am to 8 pm.

Across from the monorail station and facing it is Collections Cafe in the Chihuly Glass building. It looks decent and has a modest cost menu for lunch and dinner. It also has wine. It's the most convenient place to Key Arena other than the Armory. It opens daily at 11:30 and closes at 7 pm Sunday-Thursday and at 8 pm on Friday and Saturday. It offers a very convenient location and is a bit upscale from the Armory food court.

Nearby but outside Seattle Center are many more eating places.

On Mercer between Warren and Queen Anne are: two Thai restaurants, a pizza place, Obasan--Japanese, Caffe Zingaro (coffee, tea and delectables). And the most high-end restaurant I found on my stroll: ten mercer. ten mercer is open for full dinner from 4:30 to midnight, 7 nights a week. It looked like a first class place. It's a white tablecloth restaurant. Not a bar.

Dick's is on the corner of Queen Anne and Republican west of Key Arena. It has only burgers and ice cream. Sort of a strange combination. The building looks sort of like a small Denny's. Dick's is open daily from 10:30 am to 2 am. It had a fair number of customers just before 5 pm.

On the opposite side of the Center is Tilikum Place Cafe at 407 Cedar St. with lots of Yelp raves for its "excellent" service and "inventive" menu.


There's a certain satisfaction in going to Seattle and not drinking Starbuck's coffee, and there are terrific coffee shops all around the Seattle Center. Off the NW corner, a four-block walk from the Key Arena brings you to the highly-regarded Caffe Ladro at 600 Queen Anne Ave. Slightly closer at 525 Queen Anne is Uptown Espresso "home of the velvet foam". (Both are near the restaurants Wally mentioned.)

At the opposite, SE corner of the Center, stand with your back to the Space Needle facing Broad Street and you are looking toward Forza Coffee Company at 100 4th Ave. North, again with lots of good reviews. These are only a few of the attractive-sounding places that you can find on this Google map of "coffee near Seattle Center"

Where to Hang Out

Before and after games it's natural to want to sit in a pub, have a drink and talk. We asked Wally to look at a couple of candidate establishments and his vote goes to McHugh's:

"McHugh's is in the center of a diversified eating and drinking area with many other establishments within two blocks and most within one block. So anyone headed to McHugh's will have a lot of other choices. They can indulge a whim for something different after pausing at McHugh's or stop in at McHugh's after eating elsewhere."

McHugh's is about two blocks from the West side of Key Arena. Turn right for two blocks on 1st Ave. North, then left on Mercer.

And Yet More To Do

Here are even more things to do on Saturday and Sunday:

  • The Seattle Great Wheel is a ginormous ferris wheel on the downtown waterfront, open Saturday and Sunday at 10am.
  • Seattle Art Museum, at this time featuring "Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London" and other things, open at 10am Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Olympic Sculpture Park, provided the weather is clement, is open daily.
  • Here is a dynamic list of events happening March 7-11 in Seattle. You can filter it by type and location, but just scrolling the default list brings up lots of intriguing things to go and see. Anyone for a matinee of "The Music Man" Sunday before the championship game?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Making history in Beasley

By Wally Mersereau
And so it came to pass, in a far-off land of rolling hills known as the Palouse: Stanford’s 2012-2013 Pac-12 Conference schedule came to a fitting end. There were few in Beasley Coliseum to see it happen—official attendance was 656. But on television and computer screens throughout the world committed fans watched in living color and high definition.

Season’s end found the Cardinal tied for the Pac-12 championship with the Golden Bears of Berkeley. Each of these teams beat the other once and lost to the other once. That’s pretty doggone close when you stop to think about it.

Pullman is the most remote location the Stanford women play, but games played there count just as much as those played anywhere else and some of those games are historic. It was in Beasley that Candice Wiggins broke the then-Pac-10 career scoring record with only 3 Stanford fans looking on.

And it was in Beasley today that Chiney Ogwumike continued her steady progress through the record books.

In my early trips to Pullman I flew into that pleasant college town and stayed near the university. However, I discovered flights there are often delayed because the Moscow-Pullman Airport lacks advanced landing aids. So I’ve changed to flying into the more capable Spokane Airport. This also allows me to enjoy the luxury of The Davenport hotel.

As I made the 75-mile drive to Pullman this morning I reflected on my good fortune in having dry weather in eastern Washington, easing my Stanford road journey.

The 54th game between Stanford and Washington State ended, as have all the others, with a Cardinal victory. As the perpetual loser in this rivalry one could forgive the Cougars for giving up, but they battled on to the end. I thought WSU started each half with tight defense, but that this deteriorated into rough play. Two Cougars fouled out and a third had 4 fouls. Once again the officials did not effectively stop the overly aggressive play.

Stanford led the entire game. At the half it was 35-21 and the final score was 72-50. The Cardinal had a 30-point lead with about 10 minutes remaining in the game. At that point Tara started subbing from the bench. Washington State took advantage of Stanford’s reduced level of play and cut the lead to 20 with 4 minutes to go. Tara put a couple of rotation players back in and this stabilized the lead.

Chiney had a double-double in the first half. She left the game with more than 10 minutes to play. Her stats were: 28 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 28 minutes. Her free throw shooting fell off to 5 of 8.

Jos had 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists/1 turnover in 29 minutes. Sara had 9 points, 6 rebounds and a block in 24 minutes. Mikaela had 7 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 assists/0 turnovers in 26 minutes.

Bonnie was 2 of 7 from 3. She ended with 6 points and a rebound in 18 minutes. Amber had 3 points, a rebound, a steal and 5 assists/1 turnover in 26 minutes.

No WSU player got to double digits. Galdiera was high scorer for the Cougs with 8 points.

Surprisingly, WSU outrebounded the Cardinal throughout the entire game, ending with a 49-43 advantage. But Stanford led in field goals 42.9% to 28.6% and in 3-point shooting 25% to 7.1%. Stanford again excelled in defense.

As I made the drive back to Spokane after the game I reflected on my good fortune of being in Beasley Coliseum today to again watch history being made as the remarkable Stanford women clinched the co-championship of the Pac-12. This will allow “2013” to soon be added to the board at Maples, extending consecutive championships to 13, which certainly is a lucky number. Furthermore, today’s win at Beasley makes Stanford the #1 seed for next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Seattle. The team is healthy going into the Tournament, except for Toni.

Cal assured its share of the conference title with a win over Washington this afternoon, 78-50.

The final aspect of my favorable day was to have the team on my flight from Spokane to SFO. Some people have all the luck.

So ends the regular season. Let the tournaments begin.

Tomorrow: A big round-up of food, drink and fun around Seattle Center!