SAN ANTONIO – For the first time in a Stanford NCAA Women’s Tournament title since 2010, it trailed 66-65 last night in South Carolina on Friday night, in a back-to-back fight, for two missed shots by Joe Gamecocks Came on the final occupation.
Haley Jones made an aggressive counterattack and hit a running shot with 32 seconds left to give Stanford a 1 point lead. Then, as the Cardinal tried to run out the clock, Elijah Boston stole the ball with six seconds left, giving him a clear chance to win. But Brake Bile missed a layoff from the left while running at full sprint and missed a short follow-up chance behind the Boston rim.
“It was in our hands, but we just came up short,” South Carolina guard Jia Cook told reporters after the game. He led the Gamecocks with 25 points, including five 3-pointers that clearly needed to counter Stanford’s aggressive 3-point attack.
At times, especially in the third quarter, Cook was back-to-back with Jones, who scored 24 points for the Cardinal.
The last time the Cardinals were in the national finals, they fell to UConn, 53–47, in the Almodom. Stanford, trained by Tara OneDecker since 1985, last won the title in 1992.
“Being able to bring us back to this national championship stage is an honor,” Jones said. “For Tara, for the team, for the program.”
Stanford struggled at the start of the game, committing four turnovers in the first five minutes, but took the lead on a set of free throws by junior guard Lexie Hull at the start of the second quarter. By halftime, the Cardinals were above 6.
As the game developed, the two teams combined with Jones and Cook to start the perimeter shots one by one, including Cameron Brink and Frank Belibi – preventing the versatile star of Boston, South Carolina from dominating Worked out. Boston finished with 11 points, 14 of 5 shooting, and 16 rebounds.
The teams continued to trade baskets in the middle of the fourth quarter. Stanford maintained a 4-point lead, until South Carolina’s Destiny Henderson made a 3-pointer for a second chance to bring the Gamecocks to within one point. Stanford senior guard Kiana Williams immediately followed with a jumper in the paint to go just 2 minutes. Williams had 8 points for the Cardinals; Henderson had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists for the Gamecocks.
“We really just didn’t have an answer for Cook or Henderson,” VanDerveer said.
With 39 seconds left, South Carolina was down by 2. Henderson landed a step back jumper for 3 points, giving the Gamecocks their first lead since the first quarter.
But Jones quickly responded with a shot that ended up being the game-winner.
“We have to play better on Sunday to be successful,” VanDuser said.
Brink, who was managing an injured hamstring, spent a lot of time maintaining the game in front of Boston and South Carolina’s Lassettia Amiere, using a 6-foot 4 frame to throw the ball down. Brink had six of Stanford’s 12 blocks; He also had 6 points and 4 rebounds.
Stanford has hit 56 3-pointers during the tournament, breaking a 54-set record by Yukon in 2015.
The teams battled on one court for the final four, one of which was converted into two courts that were used for the first round in a large venue that fit on a football field in the Almodom. The setup meant that the court was surrounded by fans on three sides – some cardboard cutout avatars, some human – while the fourth side had a large black curtain separating the space from the quiet half of the stadium.
Stanford got into gear against South Carolina, before it did in its Matchup against Louisville in round 8. Cardinal sophistication forward Ashton Prechtel led his team to a 78–63 victory in that game, and finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes against South Carolina.
Stanford will face fellow Pac-12 fellow and No. 3 seed Arizona for the national title on Sunday. They played twice during the regular season, winning the Cardinals both times.
“It’s just coming down to – Sunday – which is happening after that, which is the most aggressive,” VanDerveer said. “We have to be aggressive.”