Stanford wins at buzzer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Jayne Appel slipped the celebratory net from her own neck and handed it over to Jeanette Pohlen where it truly belonged. There was no doubt about that.
This is Appel's team. Yet this was Pohlen's night. She's the biggest reason Appel is headed back to the Final Four for one last shot at a national championship.
Pohlen drove the length of the court for the game-winning layin as the final buzzer sounded, lifting top-seeded Stanford past third-seeded Xavier, 55-53, in the Sacramento Regional final last night for a third straight trip to the Final Four.
Pohlen pulled out the biggest play yet to save a spectacular season when the Cardinal were a far cry from their dominant selves. Stanford had won the first three games of the tournament by a combined 98 points.
"I'm still in shock right now," she said. "It was kind of weird. Everybody was behind me. ... It was kind of crazy, just weaving in and out. The assistant coaches kept telling me 4 seconds is a long time. It did feel like a long time."
These gutsy Musketeers stood up to Stanford, all right.
Xavier's Dee Dee Jernigan missed two wide-open layins in the closing 12 seconds that likely would have sent the Musketeers to San Antonio for their first Final Four.
"I was too anxious," Jernigan said. "It was like a kid in a candy store. I was too open and didn't think it was coming out."
Stanford's Kayla Pedersen inbounded the ball underneath the Xavier basket to Pohlen with 4.4 seconds left. Pohlen dribbled all the way for the winning shot. The play was briefly reviewed, then Stanford erupted in celebration once the officials ruled the basket good.
Xavier's Special Jennings collapsed to the floor, hands on her head, after the basket. Teammate April Phillips grabbed her head in disbelief at midcourt while Stanford's players jumped for joy. A few minutes later, fresh victory T-shirts and hats in hand, fifth-year senior Rosalyn Gold-Onwude held Pohlen in a long embrace while their teammates began cutting down the nets. After that, the players grabbed pompoms from their cheerleaders and pumped them in the air, Appel dancing a jig with a net around her neck.
Xavier hung with Stanford for all 40 minutes — and the Cardinal needed every bit of grit they had to move on for at least one more.
"I don't think we can play any harder. It was a pleasure to be a part of that game," Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said.
Pedersen called it "divine intervention" after Jernigan failed to convert.
"We were very lucky. She missed two point-blank layups. But there's a lot of pressure with the clock going down," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I thought people were very tentative and I did not see from our team what I've seen all year."
Nnemkadi Ogwumike had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Pedersen added 18 points and 10 boards for the Cardinal (35-1). They will next play in the national semifinals Sunday in San Antonio against the winner of today's matchup between Kentucky and Oklahoma.
Amber Harris scored 20 points and April Phillips added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists for Xavier (30-4), which saw its 21-game winning streak end.
No. 4 Baylor 51, No. 2 Duke 48: Baylor's youth nearly cost the Lady Bears a trip to the Final Four, and ended up saving the day at Memphis, Tenn.
Phenomenal freshman Brittney Griner caught a pass, spun around and hit a short jumper with 45 seconds left to propel Baylor over Duke last night for its second trip ever to the Final Four.
"I knew we needed that bucket so I did everything I could to get position and to have "the defender) pinned behind me and step through and go up strong," Griner said.
The 6-foot-8 Griner and her teammates hoisted Kim Mulkey onto their shoulders so the coach could cut down the net. Mulkey led the Lady Bears to their only other appearance in the national semifinals in 2005 en route to the national title.
Duke led the entire second half until Griner's basket and by as much as 10 points — enough for freshman Jordan Madden to start longing for the bench.
"I really didn't want to be out there because I didn't want to make a mistake and turn the ball over or foul and let them shoot free throws," Madden said.
The Blue Devils held a 46-38 advantage with 4:59 left before a pair of free throws by Kimetria Hayden launched a 13-2 run for the Lady Bears (27-9).
Krystal Thomas, who is 6 feet 4, spent 26 minutes guarding Griner in the paint before fouling out with 2:17 left. That cleared the way for Griner, who hit the winning shot over Joy Cheek's extended arm.
"When Krystal Thomas was fouled out, that's the game. That's the story. That's it," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
A fired-up Mulkey sat Griner for 20 seconds early in the second half because she wasn't playing aggressively enough and spent a timeout after Hayden's two free throws yelling at Hayden and fellow freshman Shanay Washington for their lack of effort in rebounding.
Griner just missed her third triple-double of the season, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks.
The Blue Devils (30-6) shot a season-worst 23.1 percent for the game.
Baylor will play the winner of today's game between Connecticut and Florida State in the Final Four at San Antonio.