April 3, 2010
The Bears opened the game on a 9-0 run with the road-weary Hurricanes missing their first 12 shots of the game. Once they got their legs under them, Miami came charging back into the game, taking a 16-11 lead with 8:55 remaining. A jumper in the paint by freshman center Talia Caldwell ended the run. Another Caldwell layup a minute and a half later put Cal back in the lead, 17-16. They would never again trail in the game and ended the half with a 35-23 advantage.
The Hurricanes scored five points early in the second half to get the deficit down to single-digits, 39-30, with 17:02 to play. The Bears used a pair of dishes to freshman forward DeNesha Stallworth to get the lead back up to 13, 43-30. Miami made another run midway through the second half, cutting it to a 52-44 Cal lead, but a pair of layups and an exclamation point three-pointer by senior guard Lauren Greif put the game squarely back in Cal's control with a 59-44 lead. The Bears used solid clock management to pace out the rest of the game and hold on for a 73-61 victory.
"I am incredibly excited for this group," said head coach Joanne Boyle. "They took the bull by the horns in post season and said 'we're going to make the most of it.' We decided to refocus and show people we can handle post season play. I thought they did an unbelievable job today just finalizing it all."
DeNesha Stallworth scored a game-high 21 points, 14 of those coming in the second half. Gennifer Brandon led the defensive effort with 12 rebounds. Brandon also added nine points. Freshman guard Eliza Pierre had eight points, five rebounds, three steals, and six assists. Alesix Gray-Lawson scored 17 points, playing 39 minutes in the game. "I can't believe we really won a championship!" said Gray-Lawson. "I don't think anyone believed we could do it and everyone came out to support us. My best friend came from Poland, so I was super-excited today. It was great to be able to win it for everybody."
The Bears scored 48 of their 73 points in the paint. Miami had 26 points in the paint. The Bears also finished a clean sweep in rebounding, outrebounding all six of their WNIT opponents. In the tournament, the Bears 92 more rebounds than their opponents (273-181).
Gray-Lawson was selected the tournament MVP. DeNesha Stallworth was named to the All-Tournament Team alongside Michigan's Veronica Hicks, Illinois State's Nicolle Lewis, and Miami's Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson.
The WNIT Championship was the first national championship to be decided at Haas Pavilion. It was also the first WNIT crown for the Golden Bears. Cal is one of just eight schools to have won both a men's NIT (1999) and a Women's NIT. (South Carolina, Vanderbilt, DePaul, Kentucky, Penn State, Ohio State, and Marquette are the others).
The game was also the final game for three Cal seniors. Alexis Gray-Lawson ends her Cal career as the all-time leader in made three-pointers (211) and games played (143). She is third on the all-time scoring list, finishing with 1,982 points. In the WNIT, Gray-Lawson scored an even 100 points, averaging 20.0 per game. Senior guard Natasha Vital had four assist in the Championship game, giving her 470 for her career. Vital joined Cal's 1,000 point club during the WNIT, ending her career with 1,029 points. Senior guard Lauren Greif hit two three-pointers in the final game of her career. Greif was a perfect 2-for-2 shooting for six points. She ends her career with 137 made-threes and 764 career points.