For the third straight year Kayla Pedersen is playing for a championship. The one she yearns for tonight is on a slightly bigger stage.
The former Mesa Red Mountain standout will be in the starting lineup tonight, as she has been all year, when Stanford faces Tennessee for the NCAA women’s basketball championship.
Pedersen’s high school coach, Martin Appel, has kept in contact this weekend with Pedersen via text messages. He talked with her after Sunday’s semifinal win over No. 1 Connecticut and said she was excited.
“I think these championship games are becoming routine for her,” Appel joked.
Appel also talked to Pedersen’s father, Gary, Friday before he and his wife, Kelli, departed for Tampa, Fla., for the game.
“Gary told me it’s weird to listen to national broadcasts and they’re talking about my kid being the X-factor,” Appel said. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid or a nicer family.”
Pedersen is averaging 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds a game for the Cardinal (36-3). She scored 17 points and sank 8 of 14 field goals in Stanford’s 82-73 win over UConn.
As a junior in 2006, Pedersen helped Red Mountain reach the 5A Division I championship game where the Mountain Lions lost to Phoenix St. Mary’s.
They took home the title in 2007 in Pedersen’s senior year.
“I thought Kayla would start and play a lot of minutes this year,” Appel said. “But I don’t think anyone would dream she’d play as well as she has. She’s been pretty darn consistent. She’s a perfect fit for their triangle system.”
D.V. WINS AGAIN
For the second time in three years, Desert Vista won the Earl McCullar Award. The award represents the state’s athletic program that won the most state championships, state runner-ups, and region championships for the 2006-2007 school year.
MULLARKEY GETS FIRST OFFER
The University of Washington has offered a scholarship to Phoenix Desert Vista defensive end Danny Mullarkey, Thunder football coach Dan Hinds said.
The offer was the first for the junior.
Mullarkey was part of a fearsome front four on the Thunder during the 2007 season that included Devon Kennard, Zeb Togiai and Brandon Lewis. Together, the four accounted for 319 tackles, or a third of the team’s total, and 41.5 sacks.
In 2007, Mullarkey had 89 tackles, fourth on the team, and 11 sacks, second behind Kennard’s 24.5. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior was also second on the team with 23 tackles during the postseason.
Toby Wright, a defender for the Chandler boys soccer team, has signed a letter of intent to play at Wheaton College in Illinois. Wright was a 5A first-team All-Tribune selection and the Fiesta Region defensive player of the year this season.
Tribune writer Mark Heller and the Ahwatukee Foothills News contributed to this report