Battle of the Bay Round II

Feb. 20, 2008

By Dick Rockne

Joanne Boyle and Tara VanDerveer no doubt are experiencing emotional coaching peaks this week as they prepare their teams for Battle of The Bay II, Saturday's clash at Berkeley for first place and maybe more in the Pac-10 Conference women's basketball race.

Boyle's California Golden Bears (14-1) have a one-game lead over VanDerveer's Stanford Cardinal (13-2), a situation that has existed since Stanford won Battle of The Bay I, 72-52, on Jan.26 at Palo Alto.

Stanford is ranked seventh in the country by Associated Press; California is No. 8.

'I just think it's going to be one of the best games in Pac-10 history,' Washington State coach June Daugherty predicted.

Even if the game falls short of Daugherty's projection, the center-of-attention hype the match has attracted, the neighborhood rivalry element and the fact it will be nationally televised by Fox are reasons enough for Boyle and VanDerveer to think their decisions to become coaches were good ones.

But, for a coach to derive satisfaction from what he or she does, a top-of-the-line game like Stanford-Cal is not the only requirement. In fact, a bottom-of-the-line game can be just as meaningful.

In a way, that was the message Daugherty delivered this week during the Pac-10 women's basketball media teleconference in recalling what it was like when her Washington State Cougars ended a 27-game Pac-10 losing streak by beating Oregon State in Pullman, 56-52, on Feb. 15. It was only WSU's fourth overall win of the season, but the outcome generated an outpouring of emotion usually reserved for the NCAA tournament.

'Obviously, we've gone through a lot of adversity - the kids have,'' said Daugherty, who is in her first season at WSU after 11 years at Washington.

'A coaching change is never easy on student-athletes. For them to understand a new system and to play at the level you have to play at in the Pac-10 to experience success like we did (against Oregon State) was just very rewarding as a coach ... to see the smiles on their faces and how excited they were for each other and for WSU. It's worth all the hard work. It makes it all worthwhile. It's fun to see young people have that type of experience.'

A big contributor to Daugherty's enjoyment of the game was the way her season-long scoring leader, Katie Appleton, participated even though she couldn't play because of an ankle injury.

'The type of energy and confidence she gave her teammates - every time out, every possession -- from the bench was amazing,' Daugherty said. 'I mean I was worn out watching her. It was really neat. This day and age you don't see that many kids who are that excited about their teammates and are that pleased for them. She was so passionate for them and so happy for them to play well. And then to take the next step and get the win ...

'Her passion on the bench was just amazing. There were timeouts when I thought I needed to shut up and just let her talk. She had those kids definitely focused.'

Focus, particularly early, could be a key factor in the Cal-Stanford game. In the first meeting the Cardinal jumped out to a big lead early and the Bears never seriously threatened.

'I feel like we have to fight through whatever happens early, whether we're playing well or not playing well,'' said Boyle, confident that her team will 'come out with intensity.'

After that, it will be a matter of not over-thinking and just playing.

'Sometimes, you don't want to over-think it and just roll the ball out,'' Boyle said. 'For these kids it's roll the ball out and have a game plan but just play basketball. Do what you know and play with some instinct. I don't think we did that the first game.'

The game will feature five players who might be the best five in the Pac-10: front-liners Devenai Hampton and Ashley Walker and guard Alexis Gray-Lawson of California; guard Candice Wiggins and center Jayne Appel of Stanford. They have been largely responsible for their teams dominating league statistics.

'I think this game is going to be a lot closer (than the first game),' Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini said.

A favorite?

'I like the underdog role,'' Boyle said.

VanDerveer was asked which team she thinks is the underdog.

'What did she say?' VanDerveer said in asking about Boyle's response.

That Boyle picked her Bears as the underdogs, VanDerveer said: 'The last time I checked they were in first place.'

Not everyone excited about Stanford-Cal

Put down USC coach Mark Trakh as somebody who won't be following the Stanford-Cal game.

'Nope, not me,' said Trakh, whose Trojans will be playing Oregon State at the same time as the Bears are playing the Cardinal. 'All I'm worried about is my game against Oregon State. I couldn't care less about the Cal-Stanford game.'

If the tournament began today

The Pac-10 tournament is scheduled to begin March 7 in San Jose. If the standings don't change after the final two regular-season weeks of games, the tournament pairings will be:

March 7: Game 1 (6 p.m.) - Oregon (No. 7 seed) vs. Washington State (10). Game 2 (8:15 p.m.) - Arizona (8) vs. Oregon State (9).

March 8: Game 3 (11 a.m.) - Arizona State (3) vs. Washington (6)/ Game 4 (1:15 p.m.) - Stanford (2) vs. winner Oregon/Washington State. Game 5 (5 p.m.) - California (1) vs. winner Arizona/Oregon State. Game 6 (7:15 p.m.) - USC (4) vs. UCLA (5).

March 9: semifinals at noon and 2:30 p.m.

March 10: championship game at 7:30 p.m.

NOTES: Stanford's Candice Wiggins is 50 points shy of becoming the Pac-10's all-time leading scorer. The senior guard has 2,365 points. The league's career leader is USC's Lisa Leslie (1991-94) with 2,414. ... Washington's 6-foot-5 freshman center, Jess McCormack, has left the team. The New Zealand Olympic team member said 'a range of things added up' to her decision to leave the team with four regular-season games remaining. 'It hasn't been a great year for me,' said McCormack, who was averaging 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds. ...UCLA's point total in a 49-36 loss to USC was the lowest in Bruin history.

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