‘Unreal’ Gray-Lawson drops 35 points, Husky women edged in OT

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Sunday, February 14, 2010 6:50pm
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — Late Sunday afternoon, University of Washington senior Sami Whitcomb set off a celebration with a 3-pointer in the waning seconds for the second time this season.

This time, celebration was short-lived.

Later Sunday afternoon, after Whitcomb had sent the game into overtime with a baseline shot, the Cal Bears knocked off UW 75-68 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

With all apologies to Whitcomb’s shot, the hero of this night was undoubtedly Cal senior Alexis Gray-Lawson. Through foul trouble, injury and extended minutes on the bench, Gray-Lawson scored 35 points to help extend the Huskies’ losing streak to four games. She scored the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:08 left in overtime, then added a pair of free throws to ice the win.

“An All-American went to war,” Huskies head coach Tia Jackson said of the performance by Cal’s fifth-year senior. “It was unreal. She was going against double teams, she was shooting over a 6-(foot-)4. I mean, it was ridiculous.”

Cal scored the final nine points of overtime, and the seven-point spread accounted for the game’s largest lead of the entire night. Over the final 12½ minutes, including overtime, the lead changed hands eight times.

“We competed,” Jackson said. “It was a fun game. It’s just unfortunate we had to go out on that sour note.”

Gray-Lawson sat out the final 8 ½ minutes of the first half after collecting her third foul, and nearly two more minutes late in the second half because of an ankle injury, and yet she still piled up 35 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 5-for-8 behind the 3-point line. The only UW player who had any kind of success guarding her was freshman Charmaine Barlow, and yet Gray-Lawson buried a 3-pointer over her for a 62-58 Cal lead with 55 seconds left in regulation.

Gray-Lawson’s most important shot was the 3 in overtime, giving Cal a 71-68 lead. Jackson High School alumnus Kristi Kingma missed on the other end with 46 seconds left, and the Bears iced the game at the free-throw line.

“When you’re playing an All-American like Alexis, she can at any moment take control of a game,” Jackson said. “(She was making) contested 25-footers. I would love to say they were wide open, but, honey, they were not. That’s a hard way to go down.”

Coming off back-to-back losses by a combined 52 points, the Huskies came out of the gates slow again Sunday. The Bears jumped out to an 8-2 lead and kept UW at arm’s length for most of the first 11 minutes, with Gray-Lawson doing most of the damage.

But when Gray-Lawson collected her third foul with 8:45 remaining in the first half, and went to the bench after having scored 14 of the Bears’ first 16 points, the Huskies made their move.

Beating Cal at its own game — that is, with a suffocating full-court press that played a factor in the Bears’ 13 first-half turnovers — UW pulled out to a 30-25 halftime lead.

When Gray-Lawson came back in the game at the start of the second, the Bears started taking care of the basketball, and freshman guard Layshia Clarendon found a groove from the outside. Clarendon scored eight points in a six-minute span, the final five of which capped off a 7-0 run to give the Bears a 42-40 lead with 11:46 remaining.

The two teams traded leads from there, with neither leading by more than four points the rest of the regulation. Even another trip to the bench for Gray-Lawson couldn’t stop Cal. When their senior star crumpled to the court with an ankle injury, trailing by one point with 4:41 remaining, the Bears kept clawing away.

Gray-Lawson eventually got her right ankle re-taped, returned to the court, and put Cal in front 62-58 with the 3 from the wing.

But Kingma, who had helped keep the Huskies alive throughout the second half, answered with a 3 of her own at the other end.

Free throws kept Cal in front, an a pair by Natasha Vital gave the Bears a 66-63 lead with 10.2 seconds left.

Facing a double-team on the perimeter, Kingma passed to Whitcomb in the corner. The Huskies’ leading scorer, who had just six points over the first 39:59 Sunday, buried the shot and crouched in a yell as her teammates surrounded her.

“It’s a great feeling. It’s better when you do it in a win,” said Whitcomb, whose 3-pointer with four seconds left had beaten BYU 67-66 in November. “But it’s always nice when we’re given another chance.”

Said Jackson of the short-lived celebration: “I think I broke a heel, actually. It was exciting. I know on any given day, she can make that happen. She’s proven it more than once.”

After that shot, the hero’s spotlight returned to Gray-Lawson. She scored the biggest basket of the night in overtime, then had to have a teammate help her to the team bus after the game.

“It’s painful,” Gray-Lawson said of having to finish the game on a sprained ankle. “But my teammates would do it for me, so I did it for them. My coach expects a lot out of me, and sometimes you’ve got to take pain.”

After the way Gray-Lawson performed Sunday, she left the Huskies in some pain of their own.

“We just needed this game,” Jackson said. “We needed this game bad. And I think we deserved it.”

A few minutes later, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, Jackson added one more line about the player of the night.

“She’ll be missed next year,” she said of Gray-Lawson.

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