April 03, 2022

Stanford: Final Four One-Possession Games

Warren Grimes

Sports fans are tribal, passionate, and sometimes unforgiving.   This spring, 66 women’s hoops teams were chosen for the NCAA tournament.  That’s an honor – to be among the elite in the sport – roughly the best 66 in the sport.  But 65 of these teams ended with a loss and disappointed fans.  Even among the Final Four teams, three of them had to deal with fans disappointed by a loss.    

Stanford fans had a special team to support, one that had won over fans with their heart, talent, and resilience.  But Stanford fell two days and two wins short of a repeat national title.  I was disappointed, but not to the point of overlooking what this team accomplished.   

Stanford was the national champion a year earlier.

Stanford had completed an undefeated conference season.

Stanford won the Pac-12 tournament.

Stanford won the Spokane Regional on the way to the Final Four. 

Stanford has played three Final Four games in the past 2 years.  All three were one possession games – games in which one possession could have altered the result.  Stanford won two out of three of these games.  Last year, Stanford won two games by one point in the championship run.  This year’s loss to U Conn was also a one possession game.  That in itself was a major accomplishment.  With 1:26 left on the game clock, Stanford trailed by 8 points and had only 44 – a season low in terms of points scored. 

Stanford went on to score 14 points in the final 86 seconds, putting fear in the hearts of Geno and his lot.  Haley Jones scored six of these, Lacie Hull and Ashten Prechtel added three pointers, and Brink added two.  Stanford’s productive spurt was helped along by Connecticut turnovers (the Huskies had 8 turns in the 4th quarter).  Twice during the final 86 seconds Stanford closed to within 2 points.  With 24.4 seconds left, Jones converted an acrobatic shot in the paint to close the gap to 58-56.  Then, after U Conn guard Azzi Fudd was fouled and converted two free throws, Stanford called time.  With 18.4 seconds on the clock, Jones inbounded from the sidelines directly to Cameron Brink standing in the paint near the hoop.  Brink quickly converted to close to 60-58.

Give the Huskies credit.  U Conn converted 9 of 10 free throws during the final 86 seconds to seal the deal.  For the game, they also out rebounded Stanford 46 to 37, helped along by Stanford’s terrible shooting percentage.  As has become a pattern in Final Four games, intense defense limited scoring and shooting percentages for both teams.

So which team has the best final four record over the past two years?  South Carolina has a semi-final appearance and a championship.  Stanford can match this with its own championship and semi-final appearance.  U Conn?  They fall behind with one semi-final and one final game appearance.  Sorry Geno.

So Stanford, like every other team in the Division IA, can look forward to next year.  But before we turn our gaze to the future, I doff my hat to this wonderful 2021-22 team that brought so much fun to Stanford fans.

1 comment:

Glovesave said...

Thanks Warren for another season of insight and commentary.
l enjoy reading your thoughts on SWBB.
Be well and l look forward to the next season.