The South Carolina Gamecocks were upset by the Stanford Cardinal in the 2021 NCAA Final Four.
That setback fueled their dominance in women’s college basketball this season, culminating in the program’s second national championship.
Led by head coach Dawn Staley, who’s built the Gamecocks into a national power, and center Aliyah Boston, South Carolina completed its journey Sunday night with a convincing 64-49 win over Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies.
It was Geno’s first loss in a title game. The legendary coach had won his previous 11 trips to the ultimate game.
Center Aliyah Boston expressed her excitement in her postgame interview.
“Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this since last season. Because everyone had a picture of me crying at the end of the Final Four. And they put it everywhere as if that was some type of — but today we’re national champions.
“And happy tears, Holly. Happy tears. So if you guys want a smile, here you go. And we’re national champions.”
Staley’s Last Eight Months Have Been Remarkable: Gold Medal And NCAA Championship
Known for her pregame drip, Staley leads the Gamecocks with that North Philly flavor and pizzazz that she displayed throughout her illustrious playing career.
It has led to two national championships and four Final Fours, in a place where women’s basketball was an afterthought when she arrived in 2008.
Only Geno Auriemma (11), Pat Summitt (8), Tara VanDerveer (3) and Kim Mulkey (3) have more titles than Staley’s two.
Following last season’s disappointing loss in the Final Four, Staley then turned her attention to leading the U.S. Women’s National Team in the Olympics.
She did just that by going to Tokyo and bringing back gold for the USA’s seventh straight Olympics and extending their Olympic winning streak to 55 games. Following the gold medal winning game, an elated Staley had this to say about her team.
“Our country has a lot great coaches that can get the job done. Me being a part of I believe six, that’s enough. I’m full, I’m full.”
Boston Is The Second-Best Post Player From The Virgin Islands: She Could Become Second VI Native To Be Taken No. 1 In A Pro Draft
Boston, is a native of the Virgin Islands, like Pro Basketball Hall of Famer and five-time NBA champion Tim Duncan.
The 6-foot-5 Boston dominated college basketball all season, winning the Naismith Player of the Year and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year awards.
She averaged 17 points and 17 rebounds during the Final Four, including a 23 point and 18 rebound outing against Louisville in the semifinals. Those are Duncan-like numbers, and last year she had the opportunity to spend five days with the guy affectionately known as the “Big Fundamental.”
“We just had a good time,” Boston said. “It was pretty fun. He helped me with some new things. He just showed me some different moves. Just working a lot on just repetition and getting my shots and different post moves and just working on reading the defense.”
“We really got to know each other while on the trip. He’s been following the South Carolina games.”
Duncan should be proud after watching Boston dominate the game on both ends in the championship game while scoring just 11 points. The dominant center also chipped in with 16 rebounds, four assists and four blocks in leading her team to March Madness glory.
The title win puts Boston in Lady Gamecocks lore along with 2017 Final Four MOP and 2020 WNBA MVP Aja Wilson. Wilson led Staley’s program to its first title in 2017.
Now Boston, a junior, must decide whether to return to Columbia and run it back or declare for the WNBA Draft, where she would be the top overall pick. The decision won’t be easy.