(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
In honor of the 87th annual Academy Awards, our women’s basketball coverage team put together their own set of awards from here on out known as the “Charli’s.” Our writers made their arguments for the best games, moments, and players this season. Without further ado and the unfortunate absence of a convoluted musical number, here are the first (soon to be annual) Charli’s.
Best Individual Performance (Season)
Tyler Strachan: It has to be Quinn Dornst-. Not so fast folks. Im a big supporter of Dornstauder and I think she’s oozing with talent, but Katie Hempen has had a phenomenal season and she deserves to be recognized with this award. Hempen is ASU’s leading scorer and a clutch shooter from behind the arc. When Arizona State needs a bucket late, Hempen is the one who is always called upon to knock down the shot. She’s averaging over 12 points a game while shooting 39% from the field. Those aren’t quite Kyle Korver numbers, but Hempen always gets the job done and isn’t afraid to take center stage when it matters most.
Terra Luna Sol Pinckly: My award to best individual performance on the season goes to Sophie Brunner. While Brunner has cooled down as of late when it comes to points, she’s always up there in rebounds (averaging 7.5 per game) and has played great defense day in and day out. I can’t count how many times I’ve see Brunner’s headband get knocked off because she’s going up for rebounds or fighting down low for the ball. And even though she hasn’t been scoring 20+ points a game as of late, she’s still second on the team by averaging 11.8 points per game, right behind Katie Hempen.
Drew Martin: While I’m inclined to give the honor to Sophie Brunner or Promise Amukamara or even Katie Hempen for their incredible seasons thus far, I’m going to have to go a little bit outside of the box and give this one to the commander in chief, the lead actor, the head coach, Coach Charli Turner Thorne. Arizona State was picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 at the beginning of the season, but for the second year in a row, Turner Thorne and her team have far exceeded expectations. As it stands right now, the Sun Devils are in second place in the conference and still have an opportunity to secure a share of the Pac-12 regular season title, all thanks to their incredible head coach. Over the past few years, Turner Thorne has turned this program from a middle of the pack team into a conference contender despite losing her two leading scorers from last season. With the type of season that Arizona State is having, don’t be surprised if Turner Thorne is picked for NCAA women’s basketball coach of the year.
Best Individual Performance (Game)
Tyler Strachan: To find the best single game performance of the season I had to turn back the clock all the way to to December 21st of last year. In the final game of the ASU classic against Northwestern, Sophie Brunner put up a stat line that has yet to be matched over the course this 2014-2015 campaign. It reads 24 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a block to boot. Brunner was 9-15 from the field, and 6-8 on the line, turning the ball over just once. It may have not been under the bright lights of a big stage, but this stellar outing established the sophomore forward as the Sun Devils’ most valuable player and top scoring threat early in the year.
Terra Luna Sol Pinckly: For best individual performance in a game, I give this one to Quinn Dornstauder for her game against Stanford on February 6th. Dornstauder had her season high 22 points against one of the top teams in the country. This was during a game where the rest of the Sun Devils were having a hard time scoring and were down by nine at the end of the first half. It could have been a lot worse without Dornstauder’s presence, but ASU was able to come back and beat Stanford behind her effort, and fittingly, her bucket with over five minutes left was the Sun Devils last.
Drew Martin: The Sun Devils are 28 games into the year and approaching the postseason quickly, so this one might be tough to remember, but Best Individual Performance in a game goes to Sophie Brunner in the season opener against Middle Tennessee State. In that game, Brunner poured in 20 points and brought down 12 rebounds, willing the Sun Devils to a dominant victory over a talented Raiders team. While it wasn’t quite the best statistical game of the year, this game stands out to me because it really set the tone for how Brunner was going to assert herself as a leader this season and show the rest of the nation just how talented she is. Her performance deserves the award because in a way it was a coming-out party for the sophomore, and she’s only gotten better as the season has progressed.
Best Supporting Performance (Season)
Tyler Strachan:Now this category was pretty much made for the Saskatchewan Sensation. (I actually spelled Saskatchewan correctly on the first try because I’ve typed it so much this season.) Quinn Dornstauder is no doubt, the biggest contributor off the Sun Devil bench. She averages nearly eight points a game, is the team’s third leading rebounder, and leads the team in blocks with 28, all while seeing a measly 17 minutes of action per contest. She may just be the best supporter right now, but if she continues to alter shots and develop that low post game… watch out for Dornstauder to make a run at team MVP in the near future.
Terra Luna Sol Pinckly:Depending on how you see this category, best supporting performance could go to two players to me. If you take it in the realm of assists, then this award clearly goes to Elisha Davis. Davis is amazing at anticipating where not only her teammates are going, but where defenders are going to be. Davis is purely a dime machine, averaging 4.8 assists per game. Now if this means more in a sense of a bench player, it has to be Quinn Dornstauder. Dornstauder has really come together as the season has progressed and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue. Dornstauder has been good for 7.7 points per game, and unlike more averages, that has been rising as the season continues. She’s done great filling in for Kelsey Moos while the sophomore has been injured and will be an excellent sixth man when Moos comes back.
Drew Martin: The award for Best Supporting Performance for the season is probably the closest of these awards for me to choose, with Sophie Brunner, Katie Hempen, and Promise Amukamara all making strong cases, but with Senior Day approaching I have to give the honor to Amukamara. Amukamara has been the jack of all trades for the Sun Devils this season. As the lone senior on the roster, Amukamara has been the on-the-court leader for this Arizona State team all season long. Game in and game out she plays harder than anybody else on the court, and her performance reflects that. Amukamara is third on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game while shooting 46.8% from the field, fourth in rebounds with 3.8 per game, and fourth in assists with 2.0 per game. As efficient as Amukamara is on offense, the aspect of the game where she really shines is defense. The senior leads the team with 1.8 steals per game and is consistently assigned the job of guarding the opposing team’s top wing player, causing Coach Turner Thorne to hail her as one of the best defenders she’s ever coached. Overall, Amukamara just might be the most valuable players on the court for Arizona State.
Tyler Strachan: Too easy. The 60-57 win at Stanford. This victory was historical, thrilling, and emotional all at the same time, giving you everything you could want in a basketball game. Arizona State got out to a big lead in the first half, but the Cardinal came roaring back in the second act, nearly ripping the Sun Devils’ hearts out and ending their then 12 game winning streak. But ASU held on, capturing their first win at Stanford’s digs since 1984 as they went on to sweep the Cardinal in the season series. It was one of the biggest wins in program history, and announced that these Devils were here to compete not only for their conference, but also for a national title.
Terra Luna Sol Pinckly: The best game was clearly the 60-57 win over Stanford, in Stanford. The win broke two long streaks: going winless against Stanford, and an even longer one in going winless against Stanford in Maples Pavillion. It was a classic with ASU going up big, losing the lead, and coming back to win anyways. It could have been a Disney movie, if the stakes were just a tad bit higher.
Drew Martin: The Best Game award is a tie. There’s absolutely no way for me to choose a winner between the two games against Stanford. In the first matchup, Arizona State came out firing on all cylinders, creating a 39-22 halftime lead, but Stanford stormed back in the second and made the game close. The Sun Devils finally got going late and were able to hold off the Cardinal, securing their first win over Stanford at Maples Pavilion since 1984. This game was huge because it was a major statement game for the Sun Devils. This particular game proved to the rest of the NCAA that this team has real talent and the ability to beat other great teams. The second leg of the series was the exact opposite. In that game, Arizona State stumbled out of the gates and fell into a 12 point hole early in the second half, but stormed back to take a 53-47 lead with five minutes to go. Although the Sun Devils didn’t score over the final five minutes of regulation, they turned up the intensity on defense and held off Stanford to secure the regular season sweep of the Cardinal. That was incredible due to Arizona State’s impressive display of resiliency and ability to anchor down on defense when they really need it the most. It was also a career game for sophomore center Quinn Dornstauder, who tallied 22 of Arizona State’s 53 points.
Tyler Strachan: I don’t know if you can call this a “moment” per say, but Charli Turner-Thorne winning ESPNW’s Mid Season Coach of the Year Award was a pretty big event. This is a Sun Devil group that lacks a true superstar and leans heavily on a team oriented style of play. CTT is fantastic with situational rotations and always gives her team the best opportunity to win. The head ball coach was truly deserving of the award, and it was great to see her, and her team’s success be recognized on a national level.
Terra Luna Sol Pinckly: There hasn’t really been one defining moment for this season, although just recently the layup by Eliza Norman that helped seal the deal for ASU against USC after two overtimes was pretty sweet. Norman doesn’t get too much playing time, but to hit such a big shot was amazing for her, and helped ASU stay near the top of the Pac-12.
Drew Martin: The Best Moment of the season Charli goes to the thrilling, historically significant victory over Stanford at Maples Pavilion. The Sun Devils were on a 12 game winning streak entering the matchup and ranked 12th in the nation, but had not yet played any true contenders. Stanford, ranked no. 10 at the time, has always been a sort of Mount Everest for Arizona State, beating the Sun Devils year after year. Arizona State ran through Stanford in the first half, but allowed the Cardinal to sneak back into the game. Ultimately, ASU was able to hold on for a 60-57 victory, their first over Stanford since 1993 and first at Maples Pavilion since 1984, Coach Charli Turner Thorne’s freshman season with the Cardinal. As soon as the final buzzer sounded, the team sprinted to half-court and began their celebration, obviously elated to finally defeated 15-time defending Pac-12 champion Stanford. To this Arizona State team, it served as proof that they can compete with anybody in the country, and for Turner Thorne, it was her first victory in her coaching career over her alma mater, finally allowing her to get the monkey off of her back.