SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KOLD News 13) - Arizona’s dream season may have ended in disappointment, but the Wildcats proved to the nation their run was no fluke.
On Sunday, Arizona twice rallied from a double-digit deficit but came up just short against Stanford in the championship game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
The University of Arizona said the team will return to Tucson Monday morning. Fans are asked to come out and support the Wildcats by showing up at Arizona Stadium. Doors open at 10 a.m. and the celebration is set for 11:15 a.m. To RSVP, please go HERE.
The Cardinal had to fight until the very end to hold on for a 54-53 win and the third title in school history.
Haley Jones had 17 points for Stanford (31-2), which won the Pac-12 tournament title this year and beat Arizona twice in the regular season.
The shots just didn’t fall for Arizona, which stayed in the game with its trademark smothering defense.
The Wildcats’ shot 28% from the field and went 6-for-22 from 3-point range. Arizona was also outrebounded 47-29.
But Arizona had 12 steals, Standford turned the ball over 21 times and the Cardinal hit only four 3-pointers.
Aari McDonald scored a game-high 22 points in her last game for the Wildcats. Shaina Pellington added 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the Wildcats.
“What I will remember most is how strong they are,” McDonald said of her teammates. “We always fought. This is a good group of ladies I played with. I will remember this ride. We accomplished a lot (of things) many didn’t think we could.
“The legacy I want to leave is to work hard, don’t listen to the naysayers, keep working on you, and stay humble.”
The Wildcats’ best season before this year came in 1998, when current head coach Adia Barnes led Arizona to the Sweet 16.
“This team is special, I am so proud of them,” Barnes said. “We weren’t the best team in the tourney, but we believed in each other. We made it to the championship game and came within a basketball of winning the title. I can’t ask for anything more from this team. No one thought we would be playing in the championship game, no one.”
It was Stanford’s fifth appearance in the national title game. The Cardinal won it all in 1990 and 1992 and were runners-up in 2008 and 2010.
Stanford opened the tournament with four easy wins -- 87-44 over Utah Valley, 73-62 over Oaklahoma State, 89-62 over Missouri State and 78-63 over Louisville. The Cardinal survived a scare in the semifinals, pulling out a 66-65 win over South Carolina.