Stanford, Relying on Amber Orrange, Hangs On to Win Pac-12 Championship

Chiney Ogwumike scored the first basket for the Stanford Women’s Basketball team in the championship game over UCLA. Little did anyone know, or could guess, All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike would not score another basket in the game. After hitting a foul shot (And she missed three out of four free throws), she went 38 minutes without a another basket or point.

Yes, yes, Stanford went on an 8-0 run in the first five minutes and sent UCLA star Markel Walker to the bench with two fouls. UCLA scored their first point at the 12-minute mark. Come on, I mean, Chiney went scoreless in the first 11 minutes of the previous game vs. Colorado, but not her whole team. It was 11-2 Stanford over UCLA at the 11:52 mark. The casual Twitter fans of the Pac-12 called this game ugly and were ready to crown Stanford and turn the channel.

Then, something strange happened. Chiney got her second foul and went to the bench with 7:56 left in the first. Stanford was up 14-4. Flash back to last year, when Chiney would get two quick fouls and go to the bench for the rest of the first half, and her sister Nneka would have to score and rebound everything. It was a weird flash back, because we couldn’t remember Chiney going to the bench in the first half all year. The Pac-12 announcers confirmed she has not had two fouls (and therefore be forced to sit by Stanford head Coach Tara VanDerveer) all season long.

Only this time there was no Nneka Ogwumike to score. Who would step up and score for Stanford? And could the team survive without their leading scorer, rebounder and defender on the bench? The answer: No.

Stanford, without Chiney, looked stagnant on offense. That ten-point lead became nine, then eight. Stanford, without Chiney, could not stop UCLA from getting offensive rebounds and second and third chances to score. Seven, Six. Stanford did foul UCLA as they were shooting their misses. UCLA also decided to play their star Markel Walker with two fouls and it paid off for them. The lead now three. Oh, three-point Bonnie Samuelson hits one. UCLA answers, Bonnie hits another three. UCLA answers, then they hit a shot with 27 seconds left in the first to go up by one and take that momentum into the locker room.

Granted, the second and third leading scores for Stanford in Amber Orrrrange and Mikaela Ruef were sitting right beside Chiney on the bench in that same time period. That certainly didn’t help matters. UCLA took advantage of Stanford bench players who normally don’t play in tense situations.
It’s okay. Keep calm and carry on… with Chiney Ogwumike. She can’t be stopped for long, can she? Oh yes she can. UCLA would push her and double and triple team her. Granted, the refs didn’t call much, and the frustration showed when Chiney was yet again tripled teamed and knocked around and got called for traveling. She slammed the ball to the floor in a rare display of temper. But C and R were worried all year that Stanford was one-dimensional and without Chiney to score, and would not have anyone step up. It never happened, until now, a championship game.

But Stanford guard Amber Orrrrange decided she would do whatever it took to score. And C and R were so impressed with her game we have decided to spell Amber's last name correctly for the rest of this blog. As we have mentioned, Orrange doesn’t get many assists per game (none in this one) but she can drive and she can pull up and hit a jumper. And she did. She scored a career high 20 points and was the only Stanford player in double figures. Bonnie would get a third three in the second half for nine total points, and Ruef scored eight, none bigger then a big, tough shot in traffic with 51 seconds left to put Stanford up by two, 49-47. Then Ruef fouled out.

Then something terrible happened.
My Twitter feed went down.

Amber Orrange tied the game, then put Stanford ahead with two free throws with three minutes left. And the first lead since the first half for Stanford. Amber Orrange tied it up again with a minute and a half left. Ruef hits that jumper to put Stanford up by two with 51 seconds than fouls out, and I can’t tweet about it! I am about to burst.

Amber Orrange hits game winning shot
Amber Orrange scores the final basket and wins the game. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Amber Orrange, knowing her team needs a basket, dribbles, drives, spins, draws the two taller UCLA superstars in Walker and Brewer and she splits them, double pumps and banks it home with eight seconds left. Stanford leads 51-49. UCLA still gets a shot off, in those eight seconds, misses, fights for the rebound and Chiney Ogwumike knocks it out of bounds as the horn sounds. Stanford players rush the court, but refs huddle, and put .2 seconds on the clock and it is UCLA’s ball. Not a typo, it is point two seconds left.

My twitter is still down, or else I would have informed the Twitterverse that UCLA have to catch and release it, cannot land on your feet. Of course, the Pac-12 announcers also inform the peoples, as that is their job. UCLA catches and shoots, not sure, but I think she landed so it would not have counted had it gone in, and it did not. NOW, Stanford can rush the court, final score 51-49.

Chiney Ogwumike hugged her point guard and cried tears of joy. It wasn’t the team that saved Chiney from her worst shooting game of her career (three points, but 10 boards), it was one person. Chiney still got the Tournament MVP, now called MOP (most outstanding player, and why they changed it I don’t know). Amber Orrange made all Pac12 Tournament and deservedly so. She has been the number two scorer all year long. And Stanford has claim to the bizarre-est trophy ever.

The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team won its seventh straight Pac12 Tournament Title and 10th overall! I don’t know if any of them were this close, though.

Follow more close calls with C and R on Facebook and Twitter, too!