Packing a suitcase is a skill.
And it’s one Brittany McPhee is perfecting with the Stanford women’s basketball squad.
The past four weekends, the Cardinal has played important games in four states, including last weekend’s sweep of the NCAA Lexington (Kentucky) Regional, capped by an upset of second-ranked Notre Dame, 76-75, in the regional finals.
And now Stanford is in its first Final Four since 2014. The Cardinal will play South Carolina in the first semifinal Friday (4:30 p.m.), followed by UConn-Mississippi State at the Alaska Airlines Center in Dallas.
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McPhee’s head has been spinning, but in a good way. The former Mount Rainier High School star got to spend a couple of nights in her own bed in Palo Alto, California, before boarding one final team charter flight.
“We had time to unpack,” McPhee said, “and pack again.”
McPhee, the 6-foot junior wing, is a big reason why the Cardinal made it to the Final Four. She scored a game-high 27 points in helping Stanford overcome a 16-point, second-half deficit in ending Notre Dame’s 17-game winning streak.
“She’s gone from being a great high school player to now becoming a great college player,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
The three-time News Tribune All-Area girls basketball player of the year left Mount Rainier in 2014 as the No. 2 all-time scorer in state history. Her 2,815 points trail only Jennifer Stinson’s 2,881 for Class B powerhouse Davenport.
But unlike her early days with the Rams when she was the top scoring option from the get-go, McPhee had to bide her time at Stanford, waiting for an opportunity.
“It was a little slow,” McPhee said. “It was a little difficult figuring out how to fit into college. We had a lot of great players here.”
Last fall, with standout Karlie Samuelson out with a wrist injury, McPhee emerged as a vital option in the Stanford offense, VanDerveer said.
“Quite honestly, we needed Brit out there,” VanDerveer said. “She got a lot of opportunity. That’s been the biggest difference.”
And McPhee unleashed a weapon she rarely displayed at Mount Rainer: a reliable 3-point shot.
Over her past three NCAA Tournament games, McPhee has been red hot from beyond the arc, making 11 of 19.
“I didn’t change (my shooting form) too much from high school, but I have had to practice it a lot more because I am more of a wing here,” said McPhee, who played more inside with Mount Rainier. “In college, you have to have a 3-point shot, especially after teams scout you and sag off of you.”
McPhee has scored in double digits in 25 of Stanford’s 36 games, including in six of the seven postseason games (15.6 point average).
And for this weekend’s national semifinals, she will have most of her family — father, Bryce; mother, Alice; sisters, Jordan and Jenna; and brother, Bryce — in attendance for the first time during this NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve grown a lot as a player,” Brittany McPhee said. “And we have an amazing team. People do not realize how close this team is. I have never experienced that before.”