The Stanford Cardinal have won the 2021 NCAA Women’s Tournament after defeating the Arizona Wildcats 54-53 in a thriller on Sunday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The result hung in the balance until the final possession as Arizona had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, but the stout Cardinal defence stood tall when it mattered, and forced a miss from behind-the-arc to secure the title.
Stanford guard Haley Jones led the way with 17 points and 8 rebounds and was named Most Outstanding Player, while junior Lexie Hull pitched in with a 10-point 10-rebound double-double. Arizona guard Aarion (Aari) McDonald scored 22 points in a losing effort, and Canadian Shaina Pellington exploded for 15 points and 7 rebounds, coming through with one of her best performances of the season under the brightest lights.
As it was for most of the tournament, one of the main storylines was the Cardinal defence. Stanford held Arizona to 28.8% shooting from the field, which was a percentage good enough to conceal the fact that they only shot two free throws compared to Arizona’s 18. Arizona’s defence came to play as well, as they forced 21 turnovers to keep them in the game. In the end, the size of Stanford was too much for the Wildcats to handle, but both teams played their hearts out in what was a game to remember.
Stanford came into the finals as a favourite being the #1 seed against #3 Arizona, and faced some incredible competition along the way. The Cardinal defeated #8 Oklahoma State, #5 Missouri State, #2 Louisville and #1 South Carolina just to get to the championship game on Sunday night, proving themselves as a worthy champion.
From a Canadian perspective, Toronto, ON’s Alyssa Jerome stepped off of the court for the last time on Sunday as a national champion. The senior concluded her collegiate career in a dream scenario, and was a contributor off of the bench for the Cardinal all season. Jerome played in 4 of the teams 6 tournament games, and pitched in with 4 rebounds and an assist in the final vs Arizona.
This championship marks the first title for the Cardinal since 1992, under the same coach Tara VanDerveer, and their third title in school history. The game concludes an excellent tournament that featured incredible performances and outstanding cooperation in the midst of a pandemic. The highlights from the past three weeks have been memorable to say the least, and will tie college basketball fans over until next year when the 2022 Final Four takes place in Minneapolis, MN.
Written by Kyle Oliveira