The night Dye Stahley becamesuperwoman
On Wednesday, Feb. 6 inside Mott Athletics Center, Dye Stahley seemed unstoppable.
For the past four years, senior point guard Dye Stahley has been instilling fear in her opponents and inspiring scoring in her teammates. Last Wednesday, she put on an unforgettable performance.
The Women’s Basketball team had been suffering, with their worst record in Big West Conference play in program history. The situation turned from bad to worse when Stahley suffered a Grade 1 MCL tear just four games into conference play. The Mesa, Arizona native was forced to sit out, and the Mustangs were without their veteran playmaker and defensive mainstay.
“[Stahley’s] one of the most feared defensive presences in the league,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “A lot of opponents are happy to give up the ball to somebody else on their team so they don’t have to go against her, hawking them the whole way up the court.”
However, Stahley was only sidelined for two games, a feat that Mimnaugh considers to be a miracle.
“The injury she sustained usually takes a month to come back from, so for her to be able to play in the game again is a testament to her resolve and what a hard-nosed cookie she is,” Mimnaugh said.
This year, Cal Poly has relied heavily on Stahley’s presence. The team captain averages 36 minutes a game and is the only Mustang to have played for an entire game this season. She has recorded nine full 40-minute games. In addition to taking on more minutes, the 2018 Big West Hustle Player of the Year knew she would also have to take on scoring responsibilities, as the leader of a young Cal Poly team.
“Coach Faith and I were talking during summer, and she was like, ‘You’ve really got to flip the switch. You’re not going to be able to just pass the ball and get on defense. We’re going to need you to score too,’” Stahley said.
‘You’ve really got to flip the switch. You’re not going to be able to just pass the ball and get on defense.’
On Wednesday, in a 45-minute performance against Long Beach State, Stahley flipped that switch.
“We talk about Mustang basketball as tenacious, fierce, in-your-face and [Stahley’s] done that since day one,” Mimnaugh said. “Her moving from the phone booth, mild, unassuming Clark Kent, into putting on the cloak that actually is going to be the dagger in your opponents’ heart, it really was a special event for me.”
Brian Truong | Mustang News
The return to Mott
Stahley’s first game back inside Mott Athletics Center was a close contest, with back-and-forth action throughout the game.
But with 1:30 left in regulation, the Mustangs were facing their largest deficit of the game. Trailing by six points, the 49ers seemed poised to run away with the game.
But Stahley and the rest of the Mustangs would not accept defeat. Especially when breaking a five-game losing streak was within their grasp. Stahley drew two fouls in 30 seconds and drained all four free-throws to help close the gap.
With 19 seconds left, Stahley blew by three Long Beach State defenders, driving into the paint to make a no-look pass to junior forward Hana Vesela. Vesela skirted around the inside of the arc before stepping back to make a momentum-shifting three-pointer.
“When Hana hit that step back three, I was like ‘oh yeah, we’re winning,” Stahley said. “Because when does Hana shoot a step back three?”
“[Stahley] just put her superwoman cape on and came through for us.”
A free throw gave Long Beach State another three-point lead. In response, Stahley took matters into her own hands. After pulling up at the top of the key, she let a shot go from three-point range. It landed, tying the game with 11 seconds on the clock and forcing overtime.
“I was trying to get in front and actually draw the foul,” Stahley said after the game. “She didn’t foul me, and I was like ‘oh I really hope that went in, because that was not a good shot.’ and then it went in. It was just one of those nights.”
Mimnaugh was also surprised by Stahley’s clutch three-pointer, admitting that she could not take credit for how it played out.
“It’s just what happened,” Mimnaugh said. “I turned to the coaches on that one and said ‘just like we drew it up,’ but that was facetious comment. [Stahley] just put her superwoman cape on and came through for us.”
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Despite being a prominent presence throughout her career as a Mustang, Stahley had never been considered a point scorer. In her sophomore season, Stahley averaged 26 minutes per game while starting in every game she played in, but averaged only 2.8 points per game. In her junior season, she improved to 3.9 points per game.
“[Point scoring] is a part of her game that she’s deferred to other players in the past, so that hasn’t been the biggest component of her presence on the court,” Mimnaugh said.
“I think in the past with [Dynn and Lynn Leaupepe], Hannah Gilbert and Beth Balbierz, I didn’t have to score,” Stahley said. “I just had to be a distributor. I just had to set them up, and I knew that they were going to hit shots.”
In overtime, it was Stahley’s turn to hit shots. With five minutes on the clock, the ball handler, the passer, the one-who-defers, decided to take charge and become a pure point-scoring heroine.
Just over a minute into overtime, the 49ers had taken a three-point lead, but it did not last long. Vesela made a quick pass to a wide-open Stahley, standing nearly three feet away from the top of the arc. From the same angle from where she scored the game-tying shot, Stahley let a deep three-pointer go.
“I didn’t even notice how far off of the three-point line I was, but I was feeling it, so I was like, ‘yo, just shoot it, what could go wrong?’” Stahley said. Knowing that Vesela and senior forward Katie Nunnelley were by the posts and ready for any potential rebounds gave Stahley the confidence she needed to take shots.
With 1:38 left in overtime, the 49ers lead by just one point. Dialed in, Stahley found her familiar spot at the top of the arc and confidently pulled the trigger.
“That was a heat check,” Stahley said. “I was like, ‘alright, I’m feeling it, I just hit two [three-pointers], so why not try this third one?’”
Stahley’s fourth shot from beyond the arc earned the Mustangs their first lead in overtime at 60-59. The dagger came with 34 seconds remaining, as Nunnelley inbounded the ball to Stahley, who cut inside for a jump shot.
“Pull up jumpers . . . I’ve been working on that for some time — it’s not really my game,” Stahley said. “It was just one of those nights where literally anything I shot, it just felt like it was going to go in.”
Two more free throws by Stahley, who went 7 for 8 from the free throw line, finished off Cal Poly’s 66-59 win.
Brian Truong | Mustang News
“Her performance was just at a different level,” Mimnaugh said. “Sometimes when you get in a groove, and you’re in the zone, it’s just a special moment and you want to recreate it over and over again.”
Stahley’s 23-point performance was a new career-high. She went 6 for 13 from the floor and 4 for 6 from three-point range. Stahley also dished out a team-high six assists, putting her at seventh in Cal Poly history for all-time assists with 302 total career assists.
Stahley said her mindset going into her transcendent performance was the same as any other game.
“I had the same mentality: I want to come in every game and help any way I can,” Stahley said. “I was just playing in the moment and everything was falling into place, for me and the rest of the team.”
“I was just playing in the moment and everything was falling into place, for me and the rest of the team.”
Mimnaugh repeatedly likened Stahley’s evolution into a scoring threat to Clark Kent’s transition into Superman.
“[Stahley] just put the whole team on her back,” Mimnaugh said. “I was proud of the whole team because there were a lot of things that everyone did individually to collect the win, but Dye’s game is one that I will remember for probably the rest of my life.”
On that Wednesday night, Stahley’s superhuman strength allowed her to power through her recent MCL tear. Her superhuman vision revealed her scoring opportunities, which her superhuman speed let her capitalize on. Her ability to fly sent her shots soaring through the air and cleanly through the basket, in a style fit only for a true leader.
On that night, Dye Stahley was superwoman.