The Pac-12 rivals will clash in the championship game on Sunday after Arizona upset UConn and Stanford in South Carolina

Stanford players celebrate their 66-65 win over South Carolina in the Women’s Final Four in San Antonio Eric Gay / Associated Press

on Friday

SAN ANTONIO – Haley Jones had a huge hit, and Stanford was a little lucky to return to the national championship game for the first time in eleven years

Jones scored 24 points, including kicking off 32 seconds to help Stanford beat South Carolina 66-65 and advance to the women’s NCAA tournament championship game on Friday night

“It was a battle. It was a very tough game and we had to work very hard,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer

It is Stanford’s first trip to the title game since 2010, which also took place in San Antonio.The Cardinal lost in that competition to UConn, 53-47 This time they play against Pac-12 rivals Arizona, who beat UConn 69 in the late semifinals -59 won

The Cardinal led one and flipped it with 6 2 seconds left in midfield, but South Carolina’s Brea Beal missed a contested layup when Lexie Hull rushed back to get in her way. Aliyah Boston grabbed the rebound , but her attempt at kickback also ricocheted off the edge, sparking a wild cardinal celebration

VanDerveer, who won Pat Summitt with 1098 wins is looking for their third national championship and the first since 1992

“I just saw the ball bounce around and most of my teammates hit some bodies to open it. I just let it fly and said,” Please Jesus, go in, “and it did “said Jones, who was 11 for 14 off the field,” and then we just had to move on to the next game We don’t have time to talk ourselves into it We had to defend ourselves again””

On the next possession Boston had blocked their shot but got their own ricochet. Then, 15 seconds before the end, Destanni Henderson threw a pass that was stolen by Ashten Prechtel

After an inbounds game, Cameron Brink lost the ball on midfield against Boston, giving South Carolina the last two chances

“We got a pretty decent, two-look, layup, follow-up,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley. “We just fell short. We lost the way we did it, and it is heartbreaking ”

Jones and Fran Belibi ran to Boston, which was still under the basket, and they both hugged her in a long hug after the buzzer sounded

“Me, Fran and Aliyah, we are best friends We text every day We talk all the time We love to compete I think we were so close together to make us more competitive,” said Jones “I mean it was a hard-fought fight. She played great. We both played great. We just wanted to give her the respect she deserves.”

Henderson scored six direct points to give the Gamecocks (26-5) a lead of 65-64 by 38.8 seconds left. They had a three-point game and a 3-pointer

With a deficit of 15-6 in the middle of the first quarter, Stanford scored the next nine points to advance the game into the second round. The Gamecocks missed their last six shots of the quarter and were 4:48 for the final goalless

“We know basketball teams have runs, so we can’t let the first quarter or the first five minutes run the entire game,” said Hull, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds

ARIZONA 69, UCONN 59: Aari McDonald scored 26 points and led a stifling defensive effort as the Wildcats defeated UConn to advance to the championship game for the first time in school history

The Wildcats never competed against the favored and fabled Huskies, who reached the Final Four 13 times in a row, but since 2016, when they turned 11 Won titles, not reaching the championship game

Arizona held UConn at a season low in points, but had to hold their own after 14 minutes towards the end of the third quarter when the Huskies made a late push. Last summer, McDonald tossed the ball high in the air and was caught by their teammates attacked near the courtyard. She hugged for a long time with coach Adia Barnes, who was a player at the school in the late 1990s

The win made Barnes the first coach to lead her alma mater to the championship game since Sonja Hogg led Louisiana Tech to its first NCAA title in 1982 and finished second in 1983

“We just believed,” said McDonald. “It was that grit. We didn’t want to go home and prove it”

As she has done throughout the tournament, McDonald did everything for the Wildcats, with slashed drives, pinpoint shooting from a long distance, and a defensive intensity that kept UConn’s star newcomer Paige Bueckers at bay for long stretches

Associated Press Player of the Year Bueckers finished the race with 18 points, and her 3-pointer with 1:23 left put UConn within 60-55 before Arizona wrapped up the win with free throws

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