Asha Thomas did this.
Good triumphed over Evil. Your authors react:
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD
Great buzzer beating, beat the evil empire game, or the GREATEST damn game ever at Haas Pavilion?
Whew. Let me catch my breath for a second.
This game will immediately and rightly be compared to the famous ’AGL drops 37’ win that was probably the high point of the Boyle/Hampton/Walker/Gray-Lawson Bears. That game was completely different from game flow, and in that case the climactic bucket gave Cal a 3 point lead with 10 seconds left rather than a literal buzzer beater. You’ll never be able to dislodge the AGL game from my heart because it was the gam that fully launched my Cal WBB fandom, but this game was at least as good.
That game had one, epic, undeniable story line. AGL wasn’t going to be denied. But this game? This game was BONKERS. Kristine owning the first quarter while Stanford still naively thought they could single cover her. Recee owning the 2nd quarter with a variety of assisted and unassisted jumpers. Jaelyn Brown’s wild 3rd quarter, in which I imagine that Tara Vanderveer is pulling out her hair as the one player they will happily let take jumpers . . . hits jumper after jumper, including a wild 3 that nails the back of the rim and just dies, before falling backward into the hoop as if the basketball gods were decreeing who shalt win this game.
And then the 4th quarter, when the refs turned against us and everybody was going to foul out and Stanford wouldn’t stop making baskets and getting to the line and oh god there’s no way we hold onto this wait we have a 5 point lead no wait the lead is gone oh no Kianna fouled out oh no Kristine fouled out we’re screwed we’re screwed we’re screwed NO WE WON YESYESYESYESYES ASHA THOMAS IS A FOREVER LEGEND.
All those soul-sucking close losses this season... we were due one, and isn’t it nice that it came against the Junior University? Add in the drama of the final possession, with Kianna and Kristine fouling out, the latter on a phantom WBB ref call that gifted Furd the lead, and I was so jealous of the people who were losing their mind at Haas.
Asha is so good when she’s aggressive. She’s been scuffling a bit lately, but last possession, ball in her hands with no Kristine to bail us out, and Asha didn’t blink. She’s our senior leader, she’s always had so much heart, and I feel good anytime the ball is in her hands in that situation.
I hope this game was the start of a memorable second half of the Pac 12 season. Hopefully our wings and guards will be in attack mode the rest of the year. They’re good enough to make plays. They shouldn’t be so hesitant and tethered to running whatever play is called from the sidelines. If you see an opening, trust your instincts and attack with confidence. Kristine will get hers, even if we don’t force the ball to her.
For me it was one of those out of body experiences that you can’t ever anticipate or force, but when they happen...you realize why all this Cal fandom business is worth it.
I sat in the student section, which was unusually and pleasingly acting like a student section for much of the game. We stood up for a lot of the action. We yelled on defense. We did the chants and songs. We heckled the stanford players and cheerleaders. A stanford game brings out the real deal, and I wish WBB could experience that more often.
I don’t know if I can describe the roller coaster. What was the biggest lead in the game? 5? It felt like a heavyweight fight that we were ALL in the middle of. Just blow after blow of high level offensive basketball. My analytical self wants to talk about what we did offensively and whether we’ve turned the corner, but that’s not where my spirit is at. My spirit just wants to tell you that sitting in the middle of it, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt quite so emotionally within a game that was so damn good. Every three (we shot 40%!) was like adrenalin injected straight in my veins. Every stanford backdoor cut was like being punched in the gut.
A million times I was sure we were going to lose. I could see it clearly in my mind. I could feel it. That deflating feeling of walking out of Haas back to my car, knowing we’d blown another one.
A million times I was sure we were going to win. I could see it clearly in my mind. I could feel it. Yelling and screaming and jumping and knowing that tonight, in this moment, we were better than Tara Vanderveer and stanford.
I alternated between those two places for the whole second half.
So when Teezy’s shot bounced, and then bounced, and then finally went in, and I knew, absolutely knew, from my vantage point that she got it off in plenty of time...
...and there was a brief moment of false suspense as they checked the clock...
...and I actually got a Bear Territory chant started, because we had just won the game.
Man. The emotion.
I only get to say this on rare, special occasions:
That’s why we do this.
The largest Cal lead was 6 points, which came midway through the 1st quarter and was immediately halved by an Alanna Smith 3 on the very next possession. Stanford’s largest lead was 5, which came midway through the 3rd quarter and was immediately erased by a 6-0 Cal run over the next three possessions. I would estimate that at least 75% of the game was played with the game either tied or the trailing team within 3 points. There were SEVEN lead changes in the 4th quarter alone! Bonkers.
So now we have to go and do it again Saturday evening. That’s a tall order, if only because the Bears played perhaps their best offensive game of the season with some pretty unlikely scoring contributions and still needed a buzzer beater to turn a loss into a win. Cal scored 81 points in 68 possessions (1.19/possession!) and still barely hung on. In other words, Cal is either going to have to somehow duplicate that crazy offensive performance, or find a way to make it much harder for Stanford to score in the paint. That’s a tall order on a two day turnaround, but stranger things have happened.