December 21, 1998
In a classic David versus Goliath, the unranked California Golden Bears took down the No. 9 ranked Colorado State Rams 80-75 in the championship game of the Oakland Tribune Classic at the Kaiser Arena.
The win was the first for the Bears (5-2) over a ranked opponent since it beat the No. 19 Oregon State Beavers March 4, 1995. It was also Cal's first Oakland Tribune Classic championship since it defeated Southern Mississippi in the 1995 event.
The game was nip-and-tuck the whole way. In the first half, there were ten ties and the lead changed hands nine times before the two teams went into the locker rooms deadlocked at 38. Jennie Leander led the way for the Bears with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting, and 4-of-4 from the stripe in the half. For the Rams (12-1), Becky Hammons led with 13 points, and was 3of-5 from beyond the arc.
The second half was a virtual carbon copy of the first, with the teams exchanging the lead nine times and tying on seven different occasions. The Bears were down two with 2:10 to go in the game when senior Sherrise Smith hit a three pointer to put Cal up one point. On the other end All-Tournament team member Katie Cronin hit two free-throws to put CSU back up by one. Cal got the ball back and worked it inside to one of its All-Tournament team members, senior Jennie Leander. Leander put it in from 10 feet, to put the Bears up by one, a lead that it never relinquished. From there, tournament MVP Paige Bowie hit a huge three-pointer as time was about to expire on the shot clock to put Cal up 77-73 with 17 seconds to play. Smith then hit two free-throws with 12 seconds left following a layin by the Rams Farah McDill. Sophomore Kenya Corley put the icing on the cake with a free-throw of her own to put Cal up by its final margin of victory, 80-75.
"It was great to see our kids do the right things when they had to," said Cal head coach Marianne Stanley. "It has been a process, and you have really seen the team come together over the last three games. At halftime we thought we could win. But halftime is only half a win."
California had a career night from freshman Shavaki Jackson who set personal bests in scoring (17, previous best 12, vs. Pacific, 11/17/98) and assists (5, previous best 1, twice, last time vs. USF, 12/4/98). Sophomore Lauren Ashbaugh also had an outstanding night, setting a career best in scoring (18, previous best 10, vs. Stanford, 1/9/98), and tying career highs in assists (3), blocks (2) and steals (2). Bowie set a career high of her own with seven assists (previous best 6, vs. Long Beach State, 12/7/96), and tied a career high with eight rebounds.
"The win feels real good," said Paige Bowie. "We've been there before at the half, but we let it get away. The seniors encouraged us not to let this get away from us."
Senior Becky Hammons was the leading scorer for Colorado State with 27 points. Hammons scored 52 points in two games and was named to the All-Tournament team. Senior Katie Cronin pitched in 18 points of her own to go with five rebounds.
Cal returns to the hardwood Monday, Dec. 28, versus Vermont in round one action of the State Farm Classic in Gainesville, Fla.