It’s been a long time coming and for those of us who have waited for this day to come since their AAU days of Houston Summer Leagues will finally get to see who will win the matchup of the No. 1 seeded and No. 1 ranked Baylor Lady Bears and the Stanford Lady Cardinals.
It will be the matchup of the century featuring 6-8 Brittney Griner of Baylor against her former rivals at Cy Fair and summer league’s Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike in the first of two games in the Women’s Final Four in Denver, Colorado.
Brittney Griner made noise throughout the entire weekend, capping off a sensational performance by throwing down a two-handed dunk during a 83-68 victory over Georgia Tech. Then she put on a 23 point, 15 rebound, 9 block shot performance against legendary head coach Pat Summitt and the Tennessee Lady Vols.
That 77-58 win helped to advance the 38-0 Lady Bears to their second Final Four in the past three years. Shekinna Stricklen led Tennessee with 22 points in a losing effort. Tennessee, who finished 27-9, had a senior class that became the first four-year Lady Vols team not to reach a Final Four.
Should Baylor win it all, it becomes the first men’s or women’s team in NCAA history to finish a year with 40 wins.
“It’s not over yet,” Brittney Griner stated. “We are very happy that we got past this game, but we know that it continues to get tougher.”
Tennessee, the second-seeded team, will now face an uncertain future as Pat Summitt has yet to say if she’ll return for a 39th season as Tennessee’s coach. She announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia Alzheimer’s type.
“This team is about Pat Summitt. This team has battled all year,” Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick stated as she fought back some very emotional tears. “I’m proud of them. I thought our team and coaching staff obviously was in a difficult situation. But I thought this team was responsive. I wouldn’t trade anything that we did this year.”
On the other side of the bracket, Nneka Ogwumike scored 29 points and nine rebounds, while her sister Chiney grabbed 17 rebounds to go with 12 points, and feshman Amber Orange came through with 13 points and four assists as the Stanford Cardinals moved past No. 2 seeded Duke 81-69.
Stanford’s win in the Fresno Regional final for the Cardinal’s fifth straight Final Four berth. The Cardinals extended their school-record winning streak to 32 games.
Nneka Ogwumike is headed back to the Final Four in her NCAA Tournament farewell with that elusive championship still in reach. Stanford, 35-1, is looking for the program’s first title since 1992. They will play Sunday night against Brittney Griner and unbeaten Baylor.
Chelsea Gray had 23 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Shay Selby scored 11 in her final game for Duke (27-6). Ogwumike is projected as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft this season.