The Stanford women's basketball team has been here before, playing for a championship of some sort. The second-ranked Cardinal will be defending its Pac-10 tournament title, just as they have successfully conquered the regular season crown for 10 straight years.
Stanford defeated Bay Area rival California, 64-44, in the semifinals. It was a game that left the Bears humbled and in deep concern for a fallen teammate.
The Bears lost leading scorer Alexis Gray-Lawson, who was taken away on a stretcher after landing awkwardly on her head with 5 minutes left.
With Cal trailing by 26, Gray-Lawson fell backwards and her head hit the court with a thump after her shot was blocked by Michelle Harrison. The senior lay motionless for about 15 minutes before being transported to a hospital for observation and precautionary tests.
Stanford (30-1) will attempt to become the first Pac-10 team to go undefeated in the regular season and win the tournament championship when it takes on UCLA Sunday.
"To have the opportunity to be her first team to go undefeated and to win the Pac-10 tournament, I think would be something none of us would ever forget and it would add to the legacy Tara (VanDerveer) has built at Stanford," Stanford senior Jayne Appel said.
The top-seeded Cardinal has reached the tournament championship game every year since it began on MacArthur Court in Eugene in 2002, and won it seven times, including the past four in succession.
Freshmen Joslyn Tinkle started in place of Appel again, but the All-American center did make an appearance and played 17 minutes.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike recorded 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the victory. Rosalyn Gold-Onwude added 10 points.
The Cardinal built on their 16-point halftime lead by outscoring the Golden Bears 16-5 to start the second half. With the victory, the Cardinal continued their dominance of the Golden Bears, having now won 36 of the last 39 meetings.
"Our team came out, we were very focused and worked very hard defensively," VanDerveer said. "We did a better job in the second half of rebounding and we got out running."
The Cardinal shot 51.7 percent from the field and scored 20 points in the paint to take a 35-19 halftime lead.
Cal coach Joanne Boyle said Gray-Lawson was talkative and alert before leaving on a stretcher and that she would be undergoing precautionary tests.