Analysis: Final Four matchup between Stanford, South Carolina shining example of best of women’s sports

Are you a fan yet? Have you been convinced that women’s basketball isn’t just good, but great, not to mention fun and frantic and getting better every postseason?

If you’re not a fan of women’s basketball by now, you’re likely looking for a reason to stay away. And that’s fine. If the young women playing in the NCAA Tournament haven’t sold you on their product at this point, it’s your loss. But you can’t say you love basketball, or sports, while continually dismissing the future of it.

We love sports because they mimic life: They teach us about overcoming adversity, playing through pain, stepping into a big moment and shining even if no one gives you a chance. There’s unprecedented joy and agonizing heartbreak.

Friday’s national semifinal between Stanford and South Carolina gave us all that in a down-to-the-wire finish that Stanford won, 66-65, after the Gamecocks missed two chances to win it in the final seconds.

Stanford and South Carolina traded runs in the first half and big shots in the second half before treating us to an incredible last 78 seconds. Trailing 64-62, South Carolina did what it does best — grab an offensive rebound to give itself another chance. And Destanni Henderson capitalized, draining a 3 with 39 seconds left to play to give USC its first lead since 1:45 to play in the first quarter. Stanford called a timeout and drew up a shot for Lexie Hull — which Hull missed.

But then Haley Jones, who’d been great all night (24 points on 11-of-14 shooting, four rebounds and two assists) and who remains the toughest matchup in the tournament, did what she’d done for the previous 39 minutes, and drained a critical shot to put Stanford back in front, 66-65.

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