By: Lamonte Thomas
Headline Phot Credit: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
The electricity was through the roof as the two number one seeds Stanford and South Carolina tipped off for a chance at going to the national championship. Stanford turned the ball over three times early, while the Gamecocks jumped out to an 11-2 lead behind buckets from Ziya Cook and an Aaliyah Boston three. Cardinals guard Hayley Jones lit a fire under Stanford as she scored nine of the team’s first 12 points, and assisted on the other three. Cook and Stanford’s Kiana Williams traded baskets in the second quarter, and Ashten Prechtel hit a few threes to go with her seven first-half rebounds. Stanford led South Carolina at the half 31-25.
The Gamecocks went down by nine points in the third quarter before climbing back within one after a few threes from Cook and Bria Beal. Lexie Hull got going for Stanford; getting steals, finding open teammates, and scoring in the post. She had 10 points and 9 rebounds with 4 minutes to go in the third. Destanni Henderson of South Carolina tied the game with a three with three minutes left in the third quarter, but Hayley Jones would close the quarter out for Stanford, giving them a 52-49 lead with one period left.
Laeticia Amihere tied the game again with an and-one bucket after taking 3 Stanford players with her to the hoop. Cook and Henderson kept South Carolina afloat, but a Cook turnover led to a Cameron Brink layup and a 64-59 lead with 1:40 left to play. Henderson would battle back with a three-point play for the Gamecocks as they trailed 64-62. She would then put them ahead with a clutch three. Stanford’s Hayley Jones let the game come to her all night long— she trusted her teammates would find her on back door cuts and when she got the offensive rebound with .35 seconds left, she knocked down the jumper- putting Stanford up 66-65. While trying to run the clock out, Stanford turned it over, giving South Carolina one more chance. Beal would miss the contested layup, and Boston missed the putback off the back of the rim, sending Stanford to the championship game! Hayley Jones led the Cardinals with 24 points, and Lexie Hull added 18 points and 13 rebounds.