March 28, 2005
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - The red hot Lady Bears are headed to the Final Four.
Sophia Young scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and the second-seeded Lady Bears are headed to the Final Four for the first time in school history after beating No. 1 North Carolina 72-63 Monday night.
Young, whose mother came from the West Indies to see her play for the first time, was named the MVP of the Tempe Regional.
The Lady Bears (31-3) extended their school-record winning streak to 18 games, leading by as many as 19 points in the second half against the Tar Heels (30-4), who had won 16 straight going into the game.
"You can coach a lifetime and have great teams that are expected to be in the Final Four and never make it," said coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson, who took over in 2000 and built the lackluster program into a powerhouse. "For our team to do it in five short years, I can't say enough about our coaches and players. These are tears of joy."
The Baylor men's basketball team made it to the Final Four in 1948 and 1950, but that program gained infamy when a former player was accused of murdering a teammate in 2003.
"This means a lot and speaks volumes for what we've done for the Baylor University community," said Steffanie Blackmon, holding a piece of the net the players cut down. "Last year we decided to be the shining light for the university because of everything that happened. We wanted to be something positive for Baylor."
Chameka Scott, 0-for-9 from 3-point range in her previous two games, was 4-for-8 against North Carolina and scored 18 points for Baylor. Blackmon added 14 points.
The Lady Bears, who hadn't even been to a regional final before, will play either LSU or Duke in the national semifinals on Sunday in Indianapolis.
"You can coach a lifetime and have great teams that are expected to be in the Final Four and never make it," said coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson. "For our team to do it in five short years, I can't say enough about our coaches and players. These are tears of joy."
North Carolina, trying to join the Tar Heel men in the Final Four, shot just 32 percent. Ivory Latta, North Carolina's 5-foot-6 point guard, scored 21 but was bounced around all night by the Baylor defense and was just 6-for-22 shooting, 3-for-13 on 3-pointers. Leah Metcalf scored 11 and Nikita Bell 10 for the Tar Heels.
"We know we could have won that game," North Carolina freshman Erlana Larkins said. "We beat ourselves down pretty badly. We didn't box out and we just didn't do the little things."
Two more victories for Baylor would give the Waco school its second national title in any sport. Baylor won the NCAA men's tennis championship last year.
Baylor outscored the Tar Heels 12-2 over the final 5:16 of a sometimes-frenetic and often-sloppy first half to take a 33-24 lead at the break. Scott's 3-pointer with 12:01 to play made it 49-31, and Young's two free throws with 11:01 remaining gave Baylor a 53-34 lead.
The Tar Heels had not faced that big a deficit all season, and responded with an 8-0 run to cut it to 49-38 La'Tangela Atkinson's rebound with 6:57 left. But the closest North Carolina got was seven in the final seconds.
The game was not the up-and-down, freestyling showcase it was supposed to be. There were 42 turnovers, 25 by Baylor and 17 by North Carolina.
Camille Little grabbed her own rebound and scored to put North Carolina ahead 22-21 with 6:33 cut the lead to 3124 to go. Young scored six in a 10-0 run that put 31-22 with 21.2 seconds to play. Latta's two free throws cut the lead to 31-24 with six seconds left in the half, then Chelsea Whitaker drove the length of the court for a layup at the buzzer to boost the lead back to nine at the break.