At 5:27 p.m. Thursday, roughly a half-hour before Stanford was to play the indomitable Connecticut women’s college basketball team, I received a text from Al La Rocque, the retired Southern Nevada high school basketball coaching icon.
“No. 15 is starting,” it read, “and her old man is in the restroom throwing up.”
No. 15 is Lindy La Rocque, a junior shooting guard on the Stanford team. Al La Rocque’s daughter.
Al La Rocque was nervous because starting was something relatively new for Lindy, and doing it on national TV against a UConn team that hadn’t lost since the dawn of the Paleozoic Era seemed a daunting task for one’s flesh and blood.
Lindy had been averaging 15 minutes a game off the bench. Against indomitable UConn on Thursday, she played 35.
The first two highlights from the lead story on the 11 p.m. ESPN “SportsCenter” a few hours later were of No. 15, La Rocque, sinking two long 3-point field goals that provided impetus for Stanford’s 71-59 home victory that halted the longest winning streak in college basketball history at 90 games.
Those were La Rocque’s only baskets in a game in which her team never trailed. She also had six assists. She was efficient. She was selfless. Every time UConn made a run to trim the deficit, No. 15 would make a nice pass to one of Stanford’s bigs on the inside, and UConn’s deficit would grow anew.
These are arguably the two best women’s basketball teams in the land. They played in last year’s national championship game, and Stanford also was the last team to beat UConn before it embarked on the streak. There would be no storming the court, but it was still a big win. Huge. Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State and Stanford provost, doesn’t address the team after it beats Cal or Washington or Oregon State.
When I spoke to No. 15 on Friday, she compared beating UConn to beating Bishop Gorman in high school, which she never did while starring at Durango. Except that the Gaels didn’t have Maya Moore and four other high school All-Americans. They probably had only two or three.
“If there is an equivalent, that probably comes closest,” La Rocque said. “It was the most minutes I had ever played in a game at Stanford. For it to be in that game, that made it special.”
She said it was extra special having her dad and her mom, Beverly, and her sister, Ally, sitting courtside. Like a lot of fans at sold-out Maples Pavilion, they were wearing “Fear the Tree” T-shirts.
Fear the Tree. Respect the Tree. Pay homage to the Tree.
Try not to get any on your “Fear the Tree” T-shirt if you are a proud papa who gets nervous before the big game.
■ The Lady Rebels somehow lost to Cal State Bakersfield in the first round of the Rainbow Wahine Invitational women’s college basketball tournament — then somehow were crowned tourney champions two nights later by beating host Hawaii. They must have been using the experimental trapezoid bracket.
■ The Oakland Athletics have scheduled a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels on July 16 — on purpose. Two games for the price of one. Really. Ernie Banks is gonna play first base. Charlie O. Finley is gonna turn over in his grave.
■ In five games as interim coach at Minnesota, former UNLV coach Jeff Horton guided the Gophers to a 2-3 record and victories over bowl teams Iowa and Illinois. New coach Jerry Kill did not retain him. Said Horton before packing his things: “Coach Kill is a good man. He’s loyal to his staff, which in our business doesn’t happen too often.”
■ After watching the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl, AC/DC immediately got back in the recording studio to begin work on a new CD: “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) — and Get Penalized 15 Yards for Unsportsmanlike Conduct.”
■ To watch Saturday’s NHL Winter Classic in 3D, local hockey fans needed a subscription to Cox Advanced TV (formerly Cox Digital Cable), Cox high definition service, a Cox HD or HD/DVR receiver, 3D glasses specified by their TV manufacturer and a 3D service code obtained from Cox Las Vegas customer service. Or you could do what I did: Dig a hockey puck out of the bottom of an old equipment bag and have your wife throw it at your face. Amazing 3D effect. Fraction of the cost.
■ Outgoing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has decided not to pardon Billy the Kid for killing two deputies in the Land of Enchantment in 1881 even though the outlaw testified about other killings he had witnessed. Richardson also sentenced New Mexico basketball coach Steve Alford’s fire engine red sport jacket to consecutive 99-year prison terms.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352.