Today provides some real tough matchups. You have one of the most accomplished women's basketballers of our time (perhaps second only to Ashley Walker) going up against a sentimental favorite in the Hawk.
The winner goes onto a tough second round faceoff with Russell White, but neither of them can focus on the future. They've got the here and now to tackle, and this matchup is no gimmee either way.
After the jump, we look at the merits of each athlete and you can decide who deserves to move on the most.
norcalnick has been covering AGL all year long, and he gives the footnotes as to why she should be a Hall of Famer.
When she’s on, one of the most dominating offensive players in Cal history. Holds the single game record for points (47, in double OT). Played arguably the single greatest offensive game in Cal history when she scored 37 of Cal’s 54 points to defeat top 10 Stanford. Also a great defender and was named to the Pac-10’s all defense team. Leads Cal in career games played. 3rd most career points in Cal history. Most 3 pointers made in Cal history.
There are plenty more stories like that this year. She started Pac-10 play on a hot streak.
Maybe playing a brutal schedule that included 4 teams ranked in the current AP top 10 prepared the Bears for the rest of the Pac-10. Maybe 12 games was enough time for the freshmen to get comfortable enough in the offense to allow Lexi to play to the level she was always capable of. Maybe this is just the mother of all hot streaks (though I doubt it). Whatever the reason, her performances speak for themselves. To wit:
FGs 3 pt. FG FTs Pts Rbds Asts TOs vs. UCLA 6-16 3-5 5-11 20 8 1 4 vs. USC 8-14 2-5 2-2 20 8 1 2 vs. Washington 7-14 0-4 5-7 19 3 1 1 vs. Washington St. 11-22 3-7 4-6 29 6 1 2 vs. Oregon 7-17 1-5 4-4 19 4 0 3 vs. Oregon St. 13-31 4-7 17-20 47 3 2 4 Percentage/Average 46% 39% 74% 25.67 5.33 1 2.67
Alexis Gray-Lawson: Last 6 games
She's shooting spectacularly (effective field goal percentage of 51.3), she's drawing fouls, she's getting to the line, and she's not turning the ball over much despite handling the ball on essentially every possession. She's dominating despite being the clear number one option for opposing defenses to focus on. She's dominating despite playing more than 35 minutes a game and playing the entire 50 minutes of Saturday's double OT barn-burner.
After Washington made one of two free throws, the magic began. Cal began the next possession with 1:41 left and Natasha Vital missed a 3 pointer near the end of the shot clock. Who was in the perfect position for the offensive board? Alexis Gray-Lawson, of course. Twenty-four seconds later she was dribbling the ball on the right wing, stopped, and launched a contested three pointer. Swish. Four point lead. Washington, to their credit, refused to go down easily. The Huskies scored 8 points in the final 50 seconds around 4 Natasha Vital free throws to send the game to overtime. The final three pointer, a buzzer beating shot from the left corner by Sami Whitcomb, was over a clearly pained and fatigued Gray-Lawson. Ooooovertime!
Fast forward to 1:38 in overtime. Both teams have traded a bucket and a bunch of turnovers. Lexi was clearly diminished with her sprained ankle - she had not attacked the hoop during overtime and even missed two free throws. Then she again received the ball on the right wing, dribbled the ball through her legs a couple times, spotted up and launched a three with a defender in her face. Swish. (I'd like to note that I spontaneous yelled "SHE IS SO [expletive] AWESOME" after both of Lexi's clutch 3's). This time Cal would maintain their lead as UW missed a few 3 pointers and Cal sank their free throws. Victory!
Gray-Lawson has had the ability to take over games for periods of time in previous seasons, but she was rarely the first scoring option when Ashley Walker emerged as an elite player when Gray-Lawson injured her knee in the 2006-07 season. With Walker leading Cal in scoring Gray-Lawson became more of a distributor to Cal’s successful low-post players and recorded nearly a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio in 2008-09. With Walker and Devanei Hampton graduating, the offensive burden fell to Gray-Lawson. At times the transition was difficult this year as Gray-Lawson adjusted to playing with five freshman and to being the clear number one threat on the Golden Bears. But when Pac-10 play started Gray-Lawson took over, combining her outside shooting talent with a hard nosed ability to drive the ball and draw fouls, and she led the conference in scoring during the Pac-10 schedule. I would attribute the scoring explosion to Gray-Lawson getting comfortable in her new role and more cohesion with the aforementioned freshmen.
As for Lavelle, he's become as much a part of our fandom with his failures (some crucial dropped balls) and his successes (big catches at big times in 2007). rollonubears has his perspective.
2007 sucked. Everyone knows that. Team morale was frighteningly low. During the 6 game period known as the Callapse, it seemed like no one was showing up on a consistent basis. There are 2 main exceptions: Justin Forsett and Lavelle Hawkins. We had a much ballyhooed WR corp that year, being referred to by some as the best top 3 group in the nation. Lavelle Hawkins was definitely not the most talented. Yet he was easily the most dependable. Every single game Hawk did his job. Didn’t have particularly gaudy stats, but he averaged 6 catches a game during that stretch and I know I felt confident that he was going to have at least a solid game every time out. I appreciate Hawk for actually being consistent during that stretch when it seemed that no one else was (sadly, that team proved that bad morale and inconsistency are contagious, as witnessed by the drops. You know which ones I’m talking about). Hawk was one of the few bright spots on that team. He was, without question, the best receiver that year. Thanks Hawk.
Also his TD catch against USC is one of the most incredible catches I have ever seen. He literally flew. His nickname is Hawk for a reason.
Hawk had a rough draw last year with Jack Clark in the second round, but although he again plays the underdog this time he has better potential to advance. This should be a close one to the finish. Vote now!