Gray finds redemption, earns tournament MVP

Rashanda Gray’s road to redemption traces back to last week’s game against No. 22 Virginia in the Rainbow Wahine tournament. The Cal women’s basketball team upset the Cavaliers, led by former coach Joanne Boyle; but Gray’s stat line was lackluster, with only one successful free throw and two rebounds in eight minutes.

“I was like, ‘I have to pick it up. I have to get my mojo back,’” Gray said.

Throughout this weekend’s Cal Classic, the freshman forward was good on her word. In Saturday’s game against CSU Bakersfield, Gray earned her first career double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds). After Sunday’s 70-48 whipping of UNLV, Gray captured the Cal Classic MVP while her team took the tournament trophy.

She was well on her way to regaining her mojo, but one crucial missed opportunity haunted her.

At one point during Cal’s dominating performance on Saturday, Boyd had a fast break down the entire length of the court.  The Berkeley native put on a show in Haas Pavilion, blitzing past defenders and fast-breaking down the court for layups. The guard, already a fixture in Cal’s starting lineup, was just as likely to dole out an assist as she was to make a trick play.

The Roadrunners, contrary to their mascot’s signature trait, couldn’t muster the speed to catch Boyd as she sped toward the net. Gray ran the length of the court opposite Boyd, ready to take an assist.

Boyd went for flash and passed it behind her back. Gray caught it, but couldn’t finish. The shot glanced the backboard and fell out of bounds.

“I still have flashbacks about that pass,” Gray said. “I don’t think I can make up for that.”

Gray came close the next day.

The Bears played their best first half of the season. Their 10 offensive boards in the first 20 minutes shut down the gasping Rebels (7-2), who in comparison could only grab seven defensive rebounds. At the half Cal settled into a comfortable 20-point gap . UNLV’s final posting was the lowest final score Cal has allowed of an opponent thus far.

“We came out here in a positive way with a swagger, saying, ‘This is our tournament to win,’” Gottlieb said. “We have to come out here and make a statement. And then we backed it up offensively and defensively from the beginning.”

Cal continued to emphasize its post play throughout the contest, with bigs Gray and Caldwell delivering a one-two punch of a combined 37 points. Gray paced her team with a staggering 23 points in 17 minutes. Her shot-sinking antics on Sunday earned her the tournament MPV and lead Cal to its Cal Classic trophy.

Early in the game, Boyd found Gray in transition for an assist inside the paint. This time, Gray’s shot sailed through the net.

“Gray made a tough finish, and as she’s running back she’s looking for Boyd, to point to her,” Gottlieb said.

Redemption was sweet, but Gray didn’t forget who she owed it to most.