South Carolina got another brilliant performance from Aliyah Boston and won a hard-fought game over Louisville, 72-59, to reach Sunday’s National Championship game. Boston, the Associated Press Player of the Year, posted a sublime stat line of 23 points, 18 rebounds and four assists.
Boston’s impact wasn’t just about how many points, but when those points came. With the clock winding down in the third quarter, Louisville was building momentum and had trimmed the Gamecocks lead down to six. Boston scored on one of her six offensive rebounds, drawing a fourth foul from Louisville’s Emily Engstler (18 points) in the process. Boston completed the three-point play from the foul line, putting the brakes on the Cardinals’ burgeoning comeback effort and allowing the Gamecocks to carry a nine-point advantage into the final quarter. Late in the fourth quarter, Boston hit a hook shot in the lane before sinking a 3-pointer to effectively clinch a trip to the title game.
While Boston took a starring role, Friday, there was plenty of production from her supporting cast. Brea Beal shined defensively and scored a dozen points on 5 of 7 shooting. Head coach Dawn Staley referred to Beal as “an elite defender” in her postgame comments. Victaria Saxton scored 10 points and the Gamecocks outscored Louisville by 22 with Saxton on the floor. Destanni Henderson (11 points) and Zia Cooke (10 points) stretched the Cardinals defense by combining to hit 5 of 11 from the 3-point line.
With the victory over the no. 1 seed out of the Wichita Region, South Carolina (34-2) is back in the title game for the first time since claiming the National Championship in 2017. The Gamecocks await the winner of the Stanford-UConn matchup in the other semifinal. In either case, it will be rematch from the regular season. South Carolina defeated UConn 73-57 in November and Stanford, the defending national champions, 65-61 in December. The Championship Game is scheduled to tip at 8 p.m., Sunday.