Aliyah Boston scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to support her AP National Player Award and lead South Carolina to the NCAA Championship game. South Carolina defeated Louisville 72-59 in the semis on Friday night.
Brea Beal scored 12 points to match her season record and held Cardinals star Hailey Van Lith at nine points with 4-for-11 shooting. The Gamecocks (32-2) delivered another impressive defensive performance.
On Sunday night, the Connecticut-Stanford winner will be facing Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks team at Target Center. Eight months after Staley led the U.S Olympic team to a Tokyo Games gold medal, Staley will be attempting to win her second national title.
Boston stated in a post-game TV interview that she saw happy tears and happy emotions. “I’m thanking God that we have one more round.”
Destanni Henderson scored 11 with 3-for-6 3-point shooting from 3-point range. South Carolina also had four assists, improving to 13-0 against AP-ranked opposition.
Henderson stated, “Just going to be in the moment for right here,”
Louisville’s Emily Engstler was the star with 18 points and 9 rebounds. The Cardinals were 1 for 8 (3-point range) and could not find a rhythm at the half court against No. This tournament was the 1st seed.
Kianna Smith (29-5), Olivia Cochran (14), were the Cardinals’ only uncrowned team in the Final Four. In Jeff Walz’s 15 seasons as coach, this was the Cardinals’ fourth trip to national semifinals.
Walz stated, “I’ve never felt prouder of a team.” “They’ve been an absolute joy to coach.”
One of the three No. 1 seeds, the Cardinals, made it out of Wichita Region. The Cardinals, one of the three No. 1 seeds in this Final Four made it out without any difficulty. Van Lith, the fervent sophomore guard sporting the perpetually flopping blonde pigtails, scored 20 points in each of their four tournament games.
Van Lith faced Beal, who was four inches taller than her and shadowed her throughout the court. Beal is often the most dangerous opponent. Van Lith’s first basket was on a knifing drive to layup with 1:43 remaining in the second quarter. Beal blocked two jumpers and made three turnovers in halftime.
The Gamecocks were wire-to-wire No. The Gamecocks, who were the wire-to-wire No. 1 team in the AP Poll this season, managed to squeeze their first four tournament opponents from the Greensboro Region to a meager average of 41.2 points to reach the Final Four for the seventh consecutive year.
The tough-as-nails Syracuse transfer Engstler helped Louisville keep Boston away from getting too comfortable in its basket while Olivia Cochran assisted with the muscle. With 4.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Boston had drawn Engstler’s fourth foul for a putback layup. The lead was 57-48 after the and-one free shot.
Engstler was fouled with just 4:56 left and her head was buried on the bench, as her teammates tried their best to console her.
Boston showed that she still had plenty of time for the Final Four after scoring 28 points and 22 rebounds against North Carolina in the Sweet 16.
South Carolina won the title in 2017. However, it was beaten by Stanford in the semifinals last year. Boston’s putback attempt bounced off of the rim at buzzer. A year later, the 6-foot-5 junior from U.S Virgin Islands has rebounded.
Boston stated, “We knew we were failing but we didn’t dwell on it.” “This is a brand new team. “We have more depth.”
Staley said: “You will either pass the test or have to retake it.”
Wearing her familiar vibrant braids in a bright-pink-and-purple combination, Boston helped the Gamecocks set a commanding tone early with an 11-2 lead. Seven of the Cardinals’ first eight shots from below the arc were missed by the Cardinals.
Louisville was able to score a quick 12-0 run in the second quarter, which gave them a three-point lead. But South Carolina had more to offer. The Gamecocks led 51-36 at halftime, with Henderson scoring a 3-pointer. South Carolina was within eight points for 42 seconds.
In keeping with Gamecocks practice, the entire South Carolina team did not go onto the court for the national anthem. Several players sat down last season while singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”