The Stanford Cardinal held on to defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks 66-65 after an Aliyah Boston put-back attempt bounced off the back iron and out at the buzzer of a Final Four contest on Friday night in San Antonio.
With time running down, South Carolina stole the ball from Cameron Brink and Brea Beal missed a layup with two seconds left before Boston (11 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks) attempted her put-back.
Destanni Henderson (18 points) made a three to give South Carolina its first lead (65-64) since the first with 39 seconds remaining. That came after a missed kick ball call that allowed Stanford to take a 64-59 lead on a fast break layup. Henderson also hit a calm step-back three that cut South Carolina’s deficit to 60-59.
However, Haley Jones (24 points) made a mid-range shot with 32 ticks remaining that gave Stanford the 66-65 lead and put the pressure on South Carolina.
The Cardinal will play the winner of UConn/Arizona in the national championship game. They have set the record for most threes in an NCAA Tournament without playing in the championship game.
After Laeticia Amihere tied the game with a tough inside bucket and free throw, Lexie Hull (18 points, 13 rebounds) orchestrated a key stretch for Stanford. She made two free throws off Boston’s fourth foul with 8:43 to play and then secured a jump ball behind her back, which gave Stanford possession back and led to a Jones layup and a 56-52 lead.
Zia Cooke (25 points) did her best to repeatedly hit clutch threes throughout the game, cutting her team’s deficit to 33-28 and 37-33 in the third. A Beal foot-on-the-line two cut it to 37-35, but Stanford scampered ahead again. Finally, a Cooke triple followed by a Henderson triple tied the game at 43. South Carolina tied it again at 45, but Cooke just missed a deep 3-pointer that wold have tied it entering the fourth.
In the first half, it was almost all Stanford (25-10) after the first media timeout of the game.
Stanford led 22-17 on a Lexie Hull three with 6:27 to go in the third. That capped a 16-2 Cardinal run. Cooke answered with a high-arching corner three to cut it to 22-20 and another three later that cut it to 26-25. However, Stanford got five points from its Elite 8 heroine in Ashten Prechtel to close the first half and lead by six.
Stanford came out with a 9-0 run after the first media timeout. Lexie Hull and Jones made threes, Lacie Hull made a free throw and Kiana Williams buried a step-back mid-range shot with 14 seconds left in the first to tie the game at 15 entering the second.
Boston provided the game’s first fireworks with a not-so-wide-open three that made it 5-0 South Carolina one minute and seven seconds in. The Gamecocks went on to lead 11-2 and 15-6 before the first media timeout.