Raise the roof for #21!
There are many things I will remember about Alexis Gray-Lawson. I remember when she helped revive a sorry program as a freshman and played in Cal's first NCAA tournament game in my memory. I remember when a knee injury ruined a promising Sophomore campaign. I remember how she accepted a new role with Natasha Vital playing at the point and Ashley Walker carrying the bulk of the offense. I remember how she went on one of the most astounding scoring runs in Cal history as a senior. But mostly I'll remember January 18th, 2009.
Thanks to a huge assist from CalBear81, I was given the opportunity to remember Alexis Gray-Lawson by reliving her greatest game - a 37 point masterpiece in a 57-54 win over Stanford. Cal and Stanford both entered the game undefeated in the Pac-10 and ranked in the top 10. Cal had not defeated Stanford in Berkeley in 14 years. A crowd of nearly 11,000 showed up and it was on of the most electric atmospheres I've ever experienced live. The game wouldn't decide the Pac-10 title, but the atmosphere felt like it at times.
Before we start, here's her stat line:
Gray-Lawson, Alexis: FGs: 12-20 3pt FGs: 5-7 FTs: 8-10 Rbds: 4 Fouls: 0 Pts: 37 Asts: 1 TOs: 2 Steals: 2 Mts: 40
That's how you take over a game. But how did she go about doing it? Let us reminisce together:
Tip-off - Lauren Greif nails a 3 after Stanford collapses on Ashley Walker. As it turns out, a preview for how Stanford would try to defend Cal for most of the game. Unfortunately, not a preview for how everybody but AGL would shoot from behind the arc.
19:00 - 5-2 Bears - Lexi drives the lane, pulls up, and calmly nails a jumper in the key. Easy. Jillian Harmon starts on Lexi, and she got beaten there. Will Stanford change things up to slow her down?
17:45 - 7-4 Bears - Harmon guards her too close on the perimeter so Lexi jumps into her on a 3 to draw the foul. Smart. She makes 2 of 3. Meanwhile, Appel gets the ball under the basket and throws her body into Hampton on a wild shot. Of course, a ref blows the whistle. Lame. My memory may be faulty, but I sure remember that refs loved to give Dev early fouls.
16:00 - 10-5 Bears. Lexi nails a spot up 3 when Harmon plays just a bit off her to prevent a drive. You can’t do that today. It’s amazing how casual Lexi makes it look.
14:00 - 14-10 Bears. Lexi burns Stanford (and the TV cameras, busy focusing on Ogwumike walking down the court) in transition and gets hammered before sinking two from the line. She has 9 already.
13:30 - 17-10 Bears - Lexi calmly comes off a screen. A Stanford big hedges out. There’s a brief second when the Stanford big returns to the post after hedging, but the Stanford guard hasn’t completely fought through the screen yet. In that second Lexi nails a 3. Deadly.
8:00 - 24-18 Bears - Lexi ends a long break with a spectacular drive and pull up. A high screen takes out the big at the top of the lane and Lexi blows by her defender to her left. She takes contact and calmly tosses the ball in from the middle of the key.
3:20 - 29-22 Bears - After a quick start the game has gotten bogged down with slow play and good defense. Lexi breaks another drought with another step-up 3 in the face of her defender.
Halftime: 29-26 Bears - Lexi has 17 points and is Cal’s only consistent offensive threat. I was struck by how little she forced the ball. In my memory of the game I remembered her shooting the ball on every possession, but so far she’s picked her spots very well. Other than Lexi Cal settled for lots of 3’s from Greif, Vital, Adrian and Morris and they didn’t fall.
19:30 - Tied, 29-29 - Lexi misses a jumper and Stanford hits a 3 to tie the game as the announcer wonders what Cal will do if Lexi goes cold. If she did…we’d be screwed. Badly. Also, Stanford has switched Rosalyn Gold-Onwude onto Lexi in a desperate attempt to slow her down. No dice, Cardinal.
17:15 - Stanford up 32-31. Lexi scores on a nice back door cut as she scoops the ball around a Stanford big. She has impressive body control in the paint considering her 5’8’’ frame. Meanwhile, I had forgotten how violent this game was. Appel and Hampton just hammered each other on each trip down the floor - it’s no wonder Dev’s knees were never healthy with the punishment she absorbed.
Poise in the paint.
15:30 - Stanford opens up a 5 point lead and Cal takes a timeout - they look lost. Appel got into Hampton’s head and the Cardinal are dominating the boards. I remember thinking that this was the turning point of the game when I was watching from the stands.
15:00 - Lexi splits the defense at the top of the arc and sinks a runner at the foul line before Appel can get the block to give her 21 on the game. Then she knocks a pass loose for a turnover, then grabs a defensive rebound on Stanford’s next possession. The announcers (quite reasonably) continue saying that Cal has to get something offensively out of Ashley Walker to win the game. But they’re wrong.
13:07 - Lexi ties the game at 40 with a crazy scoop shot in the middle of the key as four Cardinal defenders stand around her. She and Appel are trading baskets as the game starts to speed up. Appel is really taking advantage of the loose officiating to bruise it up and one Cal fan gets fed up enough to get thrown out by the refs. Love the passion!
8:30 - Stanford up 49-42. Lexi sinks an easy pull up jumper in transition, but Appel responds with an easy banker off an offensive rebound. Then Pedersen hits a three to put Stanford up 7 with 8:30 to go. Nobody besides Lexi (25 of Cal’s 42 points) can hit a shot as Adrian misses another three. Things are looking bleak…
7:30 - Stanford up 50-42 after a free throw. Hampton sits with four fouls. Stanford is on a 32-16 run since late in the first half. How in the hell did Cal come back to win this game?!?
6:55 - Well, I guess that’s how. Lexi curls off of a screen then nails a three over the help defender. The deficit is down to 5. ‘Oh come on!’ says the announcer. She’s the only Cal player with points in the last 8 minutes of game time.
Did somebody request a clutch three?
6:00 - Cal tries to front Appel, and that’s a big no-no. She takes the overhead pass and lays in an easy basket. But Lexi throws up another three from NBA distance that rattles in as the play-by-play man shouts "Stop it Lexi, just stop it!" Cal is down 4.
4:30 - Harmon misses a critical runner and Ashley Walker makes a nice spin move on a drive to draw the foul. One of two cuts the Stanford lead to 3!
3:30 - The crowd of 11,000 roars for defense as Cal holds Stanford to one and done on three straight possessions. Lexi comes off a screen behind the arc and . . . misses? But she’s fouled as Stanford overreacts to the very real deep threat. She sinks two of three. The lead is down to one!
2:45 - Cal has been pressing for much of the 2nd half, if only to cut into Stanford’s time in the half court set. But this time they finally force the turnover. Hampton juuuust misses a lay-up as the refs blow for the 4th foul on Appel. She hits both freebies to give Cal a 53-52 lead.
Sorry AGL, no rest for the weary. We still need four more points from you!
1:45 - Pederson makes a strong move down the paint, but Ashley rejects her scoop WITH AUTHORITY. Man, a finger wag would’ve been so awesome there. Unfortunately, Appel scores off of the inbound from Ashley’s block. Stanford by one.
1:09 - Lexi tries a fade away and gets the foul. Cal regains the lead after she calmly swishes them both. The crowd rises to their feet to inspire Cal on defense. Ashley calmly stands firm against a Harmon drive, rebounds the miss, and wisely calls timeout as she falls out of bounds. The unsung hero of this game? Cal’s defense kept the Bears in the game while nobody besides Lexi could score a basket.
0:20 - After starring for the entire game, Lexi gives us her unforgettable moment. She gets the ball on the right. She spots a lane to her right. She lowers her head and charges forward. She leaves the Stanford guard in the dust. Appel surges forwards from the block with her arms outstretched. The ball goes up, over Appel, hits the glass, and falls through the hoop. Thirty seven points. Three point lead.
Hitting the biggest shot of your career for your 36th and 37th points of the game over one of the best bigs in the country? No biggie.
0:10 - After a timeout Stanford gets off two heavily contested 3 point attempts, but neither fall. The greatest individual effort in Cal women’s basketball history does not go unrewarded. The team surges to mid-court to celebrate as Joanne Boyle charges into the pile to hug anybody she can get her arms around. Lexi hops around and exhorts the crowd to make more noise as Stanford quickly retreats to the locker room. There is joy and peace on earth. I'll leave you with this: