SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Aari McDonald’s small shoulders carried Arizona by way of a rebuilding undertaking to the brink of a nationwide championship.
Then the wild experience out of the desert ended on a last-second shot that bounced helplessly, and heartlessly, off the rim in Texas.
McDonald’s determined try couldn’t carry the Wildcats to the title, however this system that has been routinely ignored and was on the underside of the Pac-12 simply 4 years in the past fought perennial energy Stanford to the top. And regardless of the 54-53 loss, Arizona has served discover this system is a brand new energy out West and one to be reckoned with nationally going ahead.
“We wish to come again right here,” Wildcats coach Adia Barnes mentioned.
McDonald and the Wildcats almost snatched the title from the general No. 1 seed within the ladies’s NCAA Event with a late defensive flurry that rallied them from 9 factors down within the ultimate quarter. However what started as a tough evening for McDonald — 2 of 11 taking pictures within the first quarter — ended within the participant slumped at midcourt after she launched a determined 3-pointer over three defenders that bounced off the rim because the buzzer sounded.
“I acquired denied arduous, I attempted to show the nook, they despatched three at me …. It didn’t fall, that’s what I bear in mind,” McDonald mentioned.
McDonald had been probably the most dynamic scorer of the event till Sunday evening when her early pictures wouldn’t fall, her spinning drives wouldn’t transfer defenders, and the largest stage of her profession become solo act of frustration for almost 35 minutes of play.
Nonetheless, the Wildcats virtually did sufficient to almost beat a crew that has dealt with them simply twice in the course of the common season. McDonald made two 3-pointers within the fourth quarter and her three free throws within the ultimate minute gave the Wildcats a final probability to win when Arizona compelled a shot clock turnover with six seconds to play.
“They only constructed on their confidence, simply constructed and constructed and constructed all through the event,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer mentioned. “The truth that we (had) overwhelmed them twice and, fairly truthfully, in Arizona we beat them very badly. An actual credit score to their crew and workers. They performed nice.”
McDonald will select to do not forget that combat to the top as an alternative of the way it ended.
“We at all times fought. this can be a good group of girls that I performed with,” McDonald mentioned. “What I’ll bear in mind most is that this experience. We had an important run within the NCAA Event.”
The loss ended a particular season for the Wildcats.
A rebuilding undertaking with Barnes on the helm and McDonald on the ground had the Wildcats climb to second within the Pac-12 behind Stanford. Barnes acknowledged in the course of the Wildcats’ event run that she was uneasy about taking her first head-coaching job at her alma mater. She was anxious that if it didn’t work out, she won’t get one other probability at a significant program.
That’s comprehensible contemplating Arizona was residing within the Pac-12 basement earlier than makings its regular climb out as soon as McDonald, a switch from Washington, began enjoying in 2018-2019.
Arizona (21-6) made it to its first event since 2005, it’s first Candy 16 since Barnes was a Wildcats level guard in 1998, and beat fabled UConn within the nationwide semifinals to achieve the championship sport.
“We fought. We weren’t the very best crew within the event. Nobody thought we might be right here,” mentioned Barnes, the fourth Black feminine to steer her crew to the nationwide title sport. “We got here inside a basket of profitable a nationwide championship. My coronary heart is damaged however I can’t ask for something extra of this crew.”
Barnes could have some work to do to get again right here. The Wildcats will lose McDonald and two different senior starters. However the lineup might be shortly rebuilt round junior ahead Cate Reese, guard Shaina Pellington, who had a breakout sport with 15 factors and three steals towards Stanford, and an incoming recruiting class that ranks among the many high 15 within the nation.
“This could inspire this crew coming in subsequent yr, simply taking a look at what we did,” McDonald mentioned. “This could make them hungry.”