Miami 61, California 73Apr 3, 2010 - 10:44 PM BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- After leading California to a victory over Miami in the WNIT championship game, Cal freshman DeNesha Stallworth couldn't help but look ahead.
"Very, very excited," Stallworth said. "I really can't wait for next season."
Stallworth scored 21 points and senior Alexis Gray-Lawson added 17 to lead California to a 73-61 win.
The WNIT title was the first for Cal (24-13), which finished second in 1987 in an eight-team field.
Gray-Lawson was selected the tournament MVP. Gennifer Brandon had 12 rebounds and nine points for the Bears.
Shenise Johnson scored 21 points and Riquna Williams added 20 for Miami (22-14).
"It has to help us," Cal coach Joanne Boyle of the championship. "We've got all these freshmen ... that got six more games. How many more practices than most teams? All that kind of stuff. Winning a championship, on your home floor. Just all of that stuff comes into play when you're a little bit older.
"If they have that foundation set again, hopefully we can do bigger and better things."
The taller Bears dominated inside, scoring 48 points in the paint to just 26 for Miami. Cal shot a season-high 55.8 percent from the field, making 29 of 52 shots, most from close range.
Stallworth made 10 of 17 shots from the floor and scored 14 of her points in the second half.
"In the beginning of the game we talked about how we had the advantage because we were bigger than them, so we were just trying to take our advantage and just finish," Stallworth said.
Miami, which finished in a three-way tie for last place in the ACC at 4-10, had never won more than two games in any postseason before this year's surprising WNIT run that ended against the bigger Bears.
"Cal was amazing today," Hurricanes coach Katie Meier said. "If you get beat, you get beat. We came in and gave it our all, but we got beat."
Cal led 50-38 with under 12 minutes to play, with Stallworth scoring 10 quick points in the second half. Miami's Johnson made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 50-41, and her 3-point play made it 52-44.
The Bears countered with a 7-0 run, pushing their lead back to 15 points at 59-44 with 9:21 to play.
"Just incredibly excited for this group," Boyle said. "It's been a long journey. ... I thought they took the bull by the horns in postseason and said, 'You know what, we're going to make the most of it.' A lot of teams can just walk away from it. They refocused and said, 'We are going to refocus and show people we can handle postseason play,' and I thought they did an unbelievable job today."
Gray-Lawson led all scorers with 11 first-half points, making 3 of 8 shots from the field but hitting 5 of 6 free throws. Stallworth had seven first-half points, while Brandon came off the bench to add seven rebounds and five points.
Miami shot just 26.5 percent from the field and missed all seven of its 3-pointers before the break.
"We have a lot of basketball still to be played," said Williams, looking ahead to her junior season. "It was a learning experience."
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