SPOKANE, Wash. Cal is on the cusp of a program-defining moment: a spot on the biggest stage in women's college basketball.
But don't expect the second-seeded Bears to come out tightly wound against fourth-seeded Georgia tonight in the Spokane Regional final.
So says Layshia Clarendon, the Mohawk-wearing, locker room-dancing, sharpshooting guard.
"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.
The Bears (31-3) used clutch free-throw shooting to beat LSU 73-63 in the Sweet 16 Saturday. Cal 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 first regional final berth. The winner tonight advances to the Final Four on Sunday in New Orleans.
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 and Monarchs coach. "This year, boom, when it's time to focus, they understand the task at hand."
Georgia (28-6) upset top-seeded Stanford 61-59 in the Sweet 16 to reach its 11th regional final. The Lady Bulldogs want to choke off Cal's transition game and intimidate the Bears underneath the basket.
Such talk doesn't bother Clarendon, who warned against thinking the Bears are in any way a soft team.
"Like Gennifer Brandon snatching a rebound," she said. "You better move out of the way or you're getting your head taken off. That's how we play all the time."