SPOKANE, Wash. -- Cal is on the cusp of a program-defining moment with the first regional final in school history and a chance to advance to the biggest stage of women's college basketball.
But don't expect the Golden Bears to come out tightly wound against fourth-seeded Georgia in the Elite Eight on Monday night at Spokane Arena.
So says Layshia Clarendon, the Mohawk-wearing, locker-room-dancing, sharpshooting guard from San Bernardino.
"If anyone has seen us, we're a team that celebrates everything, like lunch or shootaround or like we got smoothies on the way here and we were like, 'yeah,' " Clarendon said of the team's Easter Sunday snack.
As if this group needs an energy booster. Second-seeded Cal (31-3) was buoyant heading into its showdown against Georgia a day after clutch free-throw shooting helped it overcome Louisiana State 73-63.
A team that has turned free throws into a tightrope walk made only 63.4 percent -- close to its season average. But the Bears made 10 of 12 when it mattered most to build a 17-point lead en route to their historic victory.
ESPN analyst Mary Murphy said Cal's hyperactive players have learned to focus even while enjoying themselves.
"Last year they couldn't shut it down when they needed to," said Murphy, a former Northwestern player and Wisconsin coach. "This year, boom, when it's time to focus they understand the task at hand."
The task Monday might be greater than anything the Bears have experienced, considering the stakes. The winner advances to the national semifinals Sunday at New Orleans Arena, where it will face Tennessee or Louisville.
Not that Cal is looking beyond Georgia, which is appearing in its 11th regional final. The Lady Bulldogs (28-6) are trying to reach their first Final Four since 1999 in San Jose.
"To put Georgia basketball at the top, back where it once was, is definitely what we are trying to do," senior guard Jasmine James said.
The Lady Bulldogs have experience, starting three seniors and two freshman guards who aren't playing like rookies. They rely on defensive quickness and a simple but balanced offense.
Georgia's extended defense rattled top-seeded Stanford in its 61-59 victory in the other regional semifinal in Spokane.
But the Bears feature senior leadership with center Talia Caldwell, reserve Eliza Pierre and Clarendon. Cal's other starters also are seasoned.
"This was their year; they had to do it because all great things came together," Murphy said.
Georgia hopes that's not the case. The Lady Bulldogs plan to choke off Cal's transition game, which is led by point guard Brittany Boyd. Georgia also wants to intimidate the Bears underneath the basket. Such talk doesn't faze Clarendon.
"You're really two bulls about to butt heads," she said. "We definitely always want to play physical, always bring it and always want to be in your face."
It's a new brand of West Coast basketball perhaps unfamiliar to the rest of the country. After all, no school from the West other than Stanford has reached the Final Four since Long Beach State in 1988.
Clarendon warned against thinking the Bears are in any way a soft California team.
"Like Gennifer Brandon snatching a rebound," she said of Cal's leading rebounder. "You better move out of the way or you're getting your head taken off. That's how we play all the time."
That's what it might take to make more history Monday night.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
Cal (31-3) vs. Georgia (28-6), in Spokane, Wash., 6:30 p.m. ESPN
NO. 1 Baylor falls
The tournament's top overall seed is upset by Louisville. PAGE 4