Stanford Cardinal women celebrate winning the Final Four against the South Carolina Gamecocks in San Antonio to advance to the Women’s Championship on Sunday Apr 4, 2021 (AP News photo)
By Barbara Mason
Friday afternoon the Stanford Cardinal Ladies took on the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Final Four. One team had a far easier time advancing while the other had to make quite a comeback. South Carolina was able to get past sixth-seeded Texas who went cold as ice at the worst possible time.
On the other end of the spectrum Louisville had a great shot at beating Stanford but the Cardinal Ladies had a different scenario in mind. Struggling the start the game, Stanford mounted a comeback that Louisville was unable to squelch. Stanford had an amazing second half in that game that cemented the trip to the Final Four. The final score was 78-63.
Now it was on to the Final Four for Stanford in search of a berth in the National Finals against a very tough South Carolina team that is well-balance offensively and defensively. After the first quarter Stanford again had a bit of a slow start when South Carolina went on a 11-2 run. The Cardinal turned that slow start around real quick and by the end of the quarter Stanford and South Carolina were locked at 15. This game would be a fight to the end with two extraordinary offenses and defenses.
South Carolina has some very tough shot blocking which did give Stanford some problems although with two minutes left in the half Stanford led by a slim margin 26-25. As the half came to an end Stanford had extended their lead 31-25. The slow start by Stanford to start the game was long forgotten. Haley Jones had the high score in the half with nine points followed by Lexie Hull with eight, and Ashton Prechtel had seven points off the bench.
South Carolina’s Zia Cooke had double digits with twelve points. She shot two three-pointers in the half and she was proving to be a handful for the Stanford defense. Through the first half the Cardinal defense were holding their own against Cooke, proving that they were up for the task.
Stanford’s Haley Jones picked up where she left off in the second half as the Cardinal ladies continued to lead in the third quarter. South Carolina was having none of it as Cooke continued her rampage. With three minutes left in the third quarter the score was tied at 43. As the third quarter came to an end, Stanford led 52-49. Stanford’s Haley Jones had shot twenty points while South Carolina’s Zia Cooke led her team with twenty-three points.
It was a wild fourth quarter with a heart-breaking conclusion for South Carolina. With 6 seconds left on the clock Carolina had a clear shot that simply failed giving Stanford the win 66-65. It could not have been a closer or well-played game by either teams. Haley Jones would finish with 24 points followed by Hull with 18 points. Lexie Hull had an amazing 13 rebounds. South Dakota’s Zia Cooke scored 25 points in the loss.
Sunday the Stanford Cardinal will play for the National title. They have achieved their goal for a berth in the finals and now await their opponent. They will either play Arizona or UConn. The time for this game is still to be determined.