SEATTLE -- Stanford sophomore Amber Orrange kept calling her winning layup with 8.3 seconds left Sunday night lucky.
"I used the screen, and she overplayed me left," Orrange said of the acrobatic drive. "I spun back right, and luckily the shot went in."
Luckily? Orrange made 10 of the Cardinal's final 12 points as Stanford escaped with a 51-49 victory over determined UCLA to win the Pac-12 tournament championship in front of a crowd of 3,927 at KeyArena.
With Cardinal star Chiney Ogwumike held to a career-low three points, Orrange dribbled into the spotlight with a career-best 20 points just when top-seeded Stanford (31-2) needed it most.
"Tournaments are won by guards, and Amber was the best guard on the floor," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
With Ogwumike, the league's player of the year, exasperated with a 1-for-9 shooting performance, Orrange took over as Stanford won its seventh tournament title in a row. It also allowed Stanford to defeat UCLA (25-7) for the third time this season and to win its 17th in a row.
It didn't seem possible considering Stanford has played the past month without junior guard Toni Kokenis, who has an undisclosed illness.
Also senior Joslyn Tinkle contracted strep throat last week, which reduced her effectiveness. Although she played 39 minutes, the 6-foot-3 forward lacked the kind of energy that usually lifts the team.
Enter Orrange, who probably helped fourth-ranked Stanford preserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Orrange did it despite being pressured all game by the Bruins. Coach Cori Close wanted her troops to stop the perimeter pass in to Ogwumike. The ploy worked as the Bruins overcame an 11-0 deficit to start the game to take a one-point halftime lead.
UCLA muscled its way to a 41-33 advantage in rebounding, including 19-9 on the offensive boards. But it shot only 27.9 percent as Orrange and gang didn't lose focus while Ogwumike struggled.
"I knew the day was coming when things would be really hard for me," Ogwumike said.
When VanDerveer told her star she couldn't do it alone, Ogwumike turned to Orrange.
"I knew this was Amber's night," Ogwumike said. "And I trusted her."
After the Bruins built a 44-37 lead with nine minutes left, Stanford used an 8-0 spurt to charge back. Then the battle of wits began.
Markel Walker made a three-point play to put UCLA up 47-45 with 2:04 left. Orrange answered with a drive that tied the score. Nirra Fields missed a jump shot, and Stanford set up to take the lead. But when the first two options weren't available, center Mikaela Ruef scored for a 49-47 lead on an off-balance shot with 51 seconds to play.
"I have no idea how it went in," she said.
Walker, who ended with 16 points, made a layup with 36 seconds left to tie the score again.
Then it was up to Orrange. She took her time coming down the court, eyeing the clock as the seconds ticked away. She waited until about 10 seconds were left to make a move.
Orrange dribbled right and suddenly burst left. She spun toward the basket while splitting Alyssia Brewer and Fields for the layup.
Walker then missed a layup with three seconds to play, but the Bruins got the ball back for one final try that didn't go.
"I was just thinking I want to win," Orrange said of her winning drive. "I'll do whatever it takes."
On this night, it took just about everything to make it happen.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
March 23 through April 9.
Pairings will be announced at
4 p.m. March 18 on ESPN
More college basketball
The Saint Mary's men will face a familiar foe in No. 1 Gonzaga for the WCC title. page 2