Stanford wins title No. 2 as Cavs come up short

Updated: February 15, 2006, 11:00 PM ET
By Melanie Jackson | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: As the NCAA celebrates its 25th season of women's basketball, ESPN and ESPN.com count down the top 25 moments of NCAA Tournament history. Here, we continue the countdown with memorable NCAA moment No. 20, Stanford's second NCAA title -- and Virginia's third straight Final Four with no trophy.

Like a lot of people involved with sports, Tara VanDerveer had a pregame routine.

It hurts. This team deserves so much better.
Dawn Staley, whose Virginia Cavs went 0-3 in three straight Final Four appearances

Before every home game, the Stanford coach would stand in the same spot at Maples Pavilion and stare skyward toward the rafters, where she'd focus on the Cardinal's 1990 NCAA championship banner.

This time, though, VanDerveer was just visiting her favorite spot one last time before the 1992 NCAA Tournament opened. There was no impending tip-off. There was, however, a fleeting thought: "Move over." As in, "make room for another one."

With just one senior on its roster, Stanford wasn't the favorite that year. Gone were three first-team All-Pac-10 performers from the previous season, leaving a starting lineup of three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman. But VanDerveer had a feeling. And through its first three NCAA Tournament games in '92, Stanford won by an average of 13.7 points.

Then, in front of 12,421 people at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in the national semifinals, the Cardinal came face-to-face with Virginia, the nation's No. 1-ranked team. And with the Cavs reaching their third consecutive Final Four, a lot of people might have been counting on the third time being the charm for Dawn Staley, whose team was riding a 19-game win streak with just one loss on the season.

Virginia led 29-27 at half, and when the Cavs were up 51-44 with a tad less than eight minutes to play, it looked as though they would finally win their first title. But then Stanford's star trio stole the show. Junior point guard Molly Goodenbour, junior center Val Whiting and sophomore shooting guard Christy Hedgpeth played at least 38 minutes apiece and combined for 51 points (77 percent) to lead Stanford to a 66-65 victory.

The last minute of the game seemed to last an eternity. Staley, the Naismith award winner that season as the national player of the year, converted a twisting layup -- which ended up being the game's final points -- with 11 seconds left to pull Virginia within one point.

Stanford then missed the front end of a one-and-one, which Virginia rebounded. Staley tried to drive, but she was cut off and lost the ball. Teammate Melanee Wagener regained possession for the Cavs and called timeout with just 0.8 seconds left, but Staley couldn't get a shot off in time off the ensuing inbounds pass.

The most lasting impression on most people who saw the game -- and keep in mind this was back when TV dictated early-morning start times (9:30 a.m. locally) so that CBS could broadcast both women's semifinals before the start of the men's games -- was Staley sobbing in the locker room afterward. For the third year in a row, her team had come up empty-handed. "It hurts," said Staley, whose team lost to Tennessee in overtime in the 1991 title game. "This team deserves so much better."

The Cavs came up short in several key statistical areas that night. Although Stanford clearly lacked a balanced scoring effort -- just three other Cardinal players scored -- and Virginia outrebounded Stanford 50-35, the Cavs shot 35 percent from the field and missed all 11 3-point attempts. Staley went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, and Tammi Reiss, who also played in all three Final Fours, was 0-for-5.

Goodenbour, who set an NCAA Tournament record that season for most 3-pointers made (18), went on to win Final Four Most Outstanding Honors. She nailed 4 of 7 treys and finished with 16 points and six assists against Virginia, then added 12 points and another six dishes in Stanford's 78-62 rout of Western Kentucky in the championship the next day.

Staley joined Goodenbour on the All-Final Four team, as did Stanford teammates Whiting, who had 28 points in the semis and added 16 in the final, and Rachel Hemmer.

And within a few months, VanDerveer was watching them hoist her second national championship banner.

Moment No. 19 will be unveiled Monday during ESPN2's Duke-Maryland game.

Melanie Jackson | email

Women's Basketball
Melanie Jackson is ESPN.com's women's basketball editor.

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