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How Stanford came away with the national title

Arizona v Stanford
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Stanford Cardinal rarely push the pace. But with 2:50 left in the National Championship, they needed an easy shot. They needed to get their offensive flow back. So Kiana Williams raced down the floor, hoping to out-run the defense for a fast break layup. There was nothing there. The lanes were clogged. She backed it out. The offense looked lost. Timeout. Stanford. 

Trailing 51-50, the Arizona Wildcats seemed to be on the verge of another upset. After a 10-2 run, they owned the momentum. The Cardinal hadn’t scored in the last four minutes. They couldn’t stop turning the ball over and they just couldn’t seem to find an open driving lane. That’s when Tara VanDerveer called a timeout and designed a play for Haley Jones.

By the time Jones caught the ball at the elbow, there were just 8 seconds left on the shot clock and no clear route to the hoop. But somehow, some way, the game felt like it slowed down. Jones collected herself. Jabbed. Dribbled. And spun. Right into the outstretched arms of Arizona guard Bendu Yeaney. Jones hoisted the ball through Yeaney and into the basket. 


For the remaining 2:24 minutes, the Cardinal would not score another point, but Jones’ basket would prove enough to escape with a 54-53 victory and the program’s third National Championship.

After surging to a 16-5 lead in the first quarter, Stanford’s offense struggled to find open shots the rest of the game against Arizona’s pesky defense. On a night when Kiana Williams scored just 5 points and Lexie Hull shot 4-13 from the field, Haley Jones was the stabilizing force. The Cardinal scored just 23 total second half points. Jones scored 13 of them.

When Jones handled the ball, the offense seemed to slow down. When Jones didn’t have the ball, she ran to the block, backed down smaller defenders, and scored easy basket after easy basket. She finished with a team-high 17 points, capping off one of the best six-game stretches of her career, during which she averaged 14.2 points per game and shot 60.6% from the field.

Stanford needed this kind of outing from Jones against Arizona. Offensively, Stanford didn’t play a Stanford kind of game. They shot just 28.6% from three after making 47% of their threes during the five tournament games prior. They coughed up 21 turnovers, significantly higher than their season average of 12.8 per game. They averaged a mere .68 points per possession, their lowest mark all year, a full .10 worse than any other game.

But Stanford still won. And they won because of the dirty work – dominating the rebounding battle 47 to 29, force-feeding the post, and, especially, clamping down on defense. 

“In the NCAA tournament, this is very physical,” VanDerveer said in her postgame presser. “South Carolina is very physical. Louisville is very physical. Missouri State is very physical. So we got more physical as the tournament went on.” 

Stanford’s number one priority was slowing down Aari McDonald. After McDonald knocked down her first three of the game, it looked like we might see another one of her scoring outbursts. On ESPN, the announcers talked over and over again about Aari’s House – a box around the left block that Stanford players could not, under any circumstances, let McDonald enter. 

McDonald tried. She worked and worked. But no matter how much she zipped and zagged around the court, she couldn’t find any openings. The Cardinal blocked off every lane. And when they didn’t block off those lanes, the outstretched arms of Cameron Brink or Ashten Prechtel cleaned up the mess. It forced McDonald, who shot 34.5% from beyond the arch on the year, into taking nine threes – more than the Wildcats probably would have liked. 

Despite struggling offensively, the Wildcats, as they did all tournament, clawed their way into the game. Aari McDonald got to the free throw line 12 times – her highest total all season – and Bendu Yeaney poked away five steals. But it was former Oklahoma transfer, guard Shaina Pellington, who provided the spark. After scoring a combined 20 points in the five tournament games prior, Pellington dropped 15 points in 30 minutes of play against Stanford. She blazed up and down the floor, scoring coast-to-coast lay-ups and forcing the Cardinal to speed up. 

Sped up or not sped up, Stanford found a way to win – through length, toughness and a whole lot of depth. When Anna Wilson missed a defensive assignment, Cameron Brink backed her up with a block. When Lexie Hull clanked a jump shot, Ashten Prechtel fought for the rebound. When Kiana Williams struggled to hit field goals, Haley Jones took over the game. 

“We had to toughen up. We had to dig in,” VanDerveer said after the game. “I’m really proud of our team for doing that. Whether it was Anna trying to take a charge, whether it was Lexie, whether it was Haley or Key [Kiana Williams]. We had a lot of people on the ground. We had to battle.” 

And battle they did, until the final horn, when McDonald’s last shot bounced off the rim, and the Stanford Cardinal became national champions.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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