There’s less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and South Carolina is trailing Stanford by two points.
Aliyah Boston makes a pass to Destanni Henderson. Less than 48 seconds left. Henderson dribbles the ball, her stance is unwavering. She waits patiently. Just dribbling. Then she gets in position to shoot.
Henderson nails a three-pointer putting South Carolina on top by one point with 38 seconds on the clock. Stanford’s Haley Jones responds with a two-pointer, putting the team back in the lead. South Carolina attempts to score but the Stanford defense makes a steal. Only 13 seconds left.
There’s still hope for a comeback. They just need one shot.
Stanford attempts to score but Boston swipes the ball away, tossing it over to Brea Beal. Two seconds left. Beal goes for the layup and misses. It’s the final second of the game. Boston is there to save it. She’s going to get the winning point. Boston pushes the ball up towards the basket and…
“No!” the commentator yells in absolute shock.
The ball bounced off the rim. Boston stands there, bent over in agony with tears streaming down her face.
Last year’s Women’s Final Four was a devastating loss for Boston and the South Carolina team, losing to Stanford by one point.
One year later, Boston exchanged her tears of sorrow for tears of happiness after the team successfully beat No. 2 seed the University of Connecticut in a 64-49 victory for the national championship title.
“Everyone had a picture of me crying at the end of the final four and they put it everywhere…but today we are national champions,” Boston told ESPN’s Holly Rowe in a post-game interview.
The Gamecocks dominated UConn from the jump, leading them 22-8 by the end of the first quarter. UConn eventually caught up, ending the half with 35-27, but South Carolina maintained the lead for the rest of the game.
Boston, who was named the Naismith Women’s National Player of the Year, finished the game with 11 points and 16 rebounds earning her 29th double-double of the season. Senior guard Destanni Henderson also led the charge for the Gamecocks with 26 points, four assists, and three steals, making it the highest-scoring game of her collegiate career.
“I really didn’t know I had a career-high, to be honest with you,” Henderson told ESPN. “But when people spoke about it and let me know that – it’s just even more of a blessing and just an honor to do it in this moment, a special moment that all of us are going to remember forever,” she said.
The win is the second national title for South Carolina making them one of the few programs to win multiple national titles in NCAA women’s basketball history. They joined the ranks of eight other teams including UConn which holds 11 titles under Coach Geno Auriemma’s leadership.
Although this was Auriemma’s first loss in a title game, it was head coach Dawn Staley’s second championship in five years. She is now the first Black coach in Division l basketball history to win multiple national titles.
“And I hope I’m just a beacon of hope for other Black coaches just to keep on keeping on because you can have success at this level when given an opportunity and when you work hard,” Staley said on TODAY.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist has been a trailblazer as a player in college, the WNBA, and the U.S. Olympic team. She has also coached Olympic and college basketball and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Naismith Award, an honor initially only given to men. Staley has been granted the award multiple times as both a player and a coach.
Staley follows in the footsteps of other black coaches including Carolyn Peck, the former head coach for Purdue University and the University of Florida’s women’s basketball teams. Peck was the first black female coach to lead a team to a national championship in 1999 with Purdue.
Of the 14 SEC (Southeastern Conference) women’s basketball teams, five are coached by Black women including Staley.
“I want to be remembered as an odds beater – that’s one,” Staley told NBC Sports. “Then the other…I think what I want is to have a generational impact. That’s what I would like to have: generational impact. Not just to impact my current players and my players, but to have impact on people, who will have impact on people, who will have impact on other people,” she said.