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Brewer: ‘Thanksgiving tournament in Vegas’

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What happens in Vegas? Well that depends on who you ask. Most would say a questionably healthy amount of gambling and partying, but it just so happened that there was also a women’s basketball tournament at the Mandalay Bay convention center, which was even more fun. And I’m not just saying that because I’m only 19. Stanford women’s basketball spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas, participating in the Play for Kay tournament, which supports the Kay Yow Cancer fund. This tournament and experience proved to be something special. How much can a team improve in two weeks? A majority of this team could tell you first hand that math classes here at Stanford hardly look at linear lines. Here, we increase things exponentially.

We finished the weekend 2-1, yet there’s quite a bit more to the story. Throughout the week, we spent a majority of our time together on the court, off the court, doing homework (watching Netflix) and sharing meals. Togetherness defined a lot of things. There was something about the determination in every practice and game that had leaped to the next level, and it was noticeable and could be felt. One of our first few days in Vegas, we practiced in a high school gym just off of the Vegas strip, but it wasn’t just any old high school. The name Lindy LaRoque was everywhere in the foyer, up on the walls and up in the gym, and I think seeing our coach’s success reminded us of something. It reminded us what and whom we’re working for.

The recent mass shooting in early October was present throughout the city in signs and memoirs left behind by the friends and family of victims and reminded us further that when it comes down to it, we simply must be thankful for one another and our safety.

Tara [VanDerveer] always tells us that circles are important, and not just for geometry class. After practice each day, all players, coaches and staff stand in a circle, and we have learned that the only way you tighten the circle is by shrinking the diameter — or the distance between you and the person across from you. We were reminded that we want this for each other.

In our first two games, we showed incredible improvement at both ends of the floor, and it was undeniable. However, you can imagine the target on Ohio State, a team that had exposed our weaknesses two weeks prior in a tough game in Columbus. The score in Columbus (85-64) and the score in Vegas (94-82) in itself only shows a difference of seven points. However, we led for 35 minutes of the game and held OSU, one of the highest-volume offensive teams in the country, to only 26 points in the first half. We led in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and rebounds. During our Thanksgiving dinner, Tara mentioned Anna Wilson, one of our sophomore guards, who was sidelined with a concussion for a good portion of last season. We had doubts that she would get better, after a long and complicated struggle with doctors and concussion analysts. On Nov. 25, about a year later, Anna set a career high in points (21) on 7-8 shooting from three against Ohio State. Alanna also had a double-double with 33 points (career high) and 16 boards.

As a team, we established the mixed emotions of wanting to win the game yet still being proud of our progress. Maybe we weren’t quite ready to win, even though winning is subjective and very broad. We won a lot of things that game, except the final score. We win every day when we are able to learn from each other and grow with each other. We are a young team, but like I said, here at Stanford, things grow exponentially.

 

Contact Mikaela Brewer at mbrewer8 ‘at’ stanford.edu.