SEATTLE — This ended as it always seems to end, with UCLA watching Stanford players celebrate.
That rite of March continued Sunday, with the fourth-ranked Cardinal rallying behind guard Amber Orrange to pull out a 51-49 victory in the Pac-12 women's tournament championship game at KeyArena.
Stanford cut down the nets. UCLA wondered what might have been.
"This hurts right now," Bruins Coach Cori Close said. "My heart hurts for our seniors. I felt they gave so much of themselves out there today. It's hard for them not to be rewarded."
Blame Orrange, who plugged an unexpected void in the Stanford offense.
The No. 14 Bruins smothered Chiney Ogwumike, the Pac-12 player of the year, running double and triple teams at her all night. Ogwumike scored a career-low three points, none in the last 38 minutes 7 seconds.
The Bruins dared anyone else to beat them. Orrange did.
She scored a career-high 20 points. Her bank shot on a spin move gave the Cardinal a 51-49 lead with eight seconds remaining.
A layup by Markel Walker of UCLA rolled off the rim on the other end. The Bruins had a last chance with 0.2 seconds left but could not get off a shot, sending the Cardinal players into a frenzy that was part celebration and relief.
"Amber stepped up big for us today," Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer said. "What a player."
Stanford (31-2) has won the last seven conference tournaments. In that stretch, the Cardinal has eliminated the Bruins (25-7) four times, twice in the final and twice in the semifinals. The Cardinal has won 19 consecutive conference tournament games since losing to UCLA in the 2006 final.
This one took a lot more work.
The Cardinal had a chance to put this game away early. The Bruins missed their first 12 shots and did not have a point until Mariah Williams' layup with 12 minutes left in the first half.
But the Cardinal dawdled, building only an 11-0 lead before the Bruins got some traction. UCLA closed the half with an 8-0 run to take a 27-26 halftime lead.
The Bruins controlled much of the second half, building a 44-37 lead with seven minutes left. They just couldn't control Orrange.
With Ogwumike buried, Orrange accepted the responsibility.
"They had two and three people on her," Orrange said. "Someone had to step up."
The 5-foot-7 Orrange had 16 of Stanford's 25 second-half points and 10 of its last 12. Twice she turned steals into points to give the Cardinal a 45-44 lead with three minutes left.
Her performance culminated with a last drive, where she spun and banked a shot over Alyssia Brewer, UCLA's 6-3 center.
"I was just trying to be aggressive and wanted to finish," said Orrange, who made nine of 15 shots. "I was lucky it went in."
Walker had 16 points to lead UCLA, which will now hope for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.