Reserve Kingma, whose sister and brother also played for UW, makes two three-pointers that helps Huskies grab 15-point lead in victory over Stanford.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — As much as anyone, Kelli Kingma could offer some perspective on the Huskies’ out-of-nowhere run to the Final Four.
The sophomore guard from Mill Creek has been in and around Washington basketball much of her life, attending games as a child and watching her older sister, Kristi, star for the team from 2008-11. Their brother, Dan, is now a walk-on for the men’s team.
So to not only be on the first UW team to go to the Final Four but to also make meaningful contributions to the victory that got them there, well, Kingma was understandably as excited as anyone.
“This is unreal,” she said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m just so blessed to be (getting) this opportunity.”
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Kingma came off the bench and hit two three-pointers from the same spot in the left corner in the first half of Sunday’s 85-76 victory over Stanford in the Elite Eight. That helped UW build a 15-point lead.
Afterward, she had 85 text messages waiting for her, and the first thing she did was have a FaceTime chat with Kristi.
Kingma also hit a three-pointer in Friday’s Sweet 16 victory over host Kentucky.
Those three makes in two games were triple the amount of field goals she had made in the previous month. Amy Ratliff, girlfriend of coach Mike Neighbors, deserves an assist for that. Ratliff, who lives in Lexington, was watching and encouraging Kingma during shoot-around early Friday, and then relayed the message to Neighbors that Kingma had a hot hand.
“You should play her,” Ratliff told him.
Teammates were thrilled for Kingma, who came into Sunday averaging 1.5 points in 24 appearances this season. She was first off the bench against Stanford, finishing with six points and one rebound in 13 minutes.
• UW junior post Chantel Osahor not only claimed the MVP award for the Lexington Regional but Neighbors credited her for one of the best coaching moves of the game Sunday.
Since January, the Huskies’ have almost exclusively employed a 2-3 zone defense. The flaw in the zone is it can leave opponents’ shooters open on the perimeter, and Stanford took advantage by knocking down four consecutive three-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
Enter Osahor, an aspiring coach who during a timeout suggested to Neighbors that the Huskies switch to a man-to-man defense. Stanford finished 14 of 33 (.424) on three-point attempts.
“It was a good idea,” Neighbors said. “Her first coaching decision … and that was big.”
• In a week filled with pleasant surprises, this was another one for Neighbors: His 19-year-old daughter, Abby, drove 10 hours from Arkansas through the night with a friend to attend Sunday’s game in Lexington.
The catch? She didn’t tell her dad she was coming.
Abby and Ratliff had planned the surprise visit together, and Abby knocked on her dad’s hotel-room door Sunday morning about a half hour before the team bus left for Rupp Arena.
That added to a comfortable stay in Lexington for Neighbors and the Huskies. Neighbors comes here often in the offseason to visit Ratliff.
• Osahor was joined on the all-region team by Walton and Kelsey Plum, plus Stanford’s Erica McCall and Lili Thompson.