Lexington, Ky. — Chantel Osahor and Kelsey Plum always believed they could help make Washington a championship-caliber program.
They signed with the Huskies as out-of-state recruits even though Washington had never reached the Final Four and hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2006. Their faith was rewarded Sunday when the junior tandem led the No. 7-seed Huskies to an 85-76 victory over No. 4 seed Stanford in the NCAA Lexington Regional women’s basketball final.
“I don’t think it’s really hit us,” said Osahor, wearing a piece of the Rupp Arena net tied to her Final Four hat. “I mean, we’re in the Final Four. That’s a huge accomplishment. I think we’ve got to look back and appreciate it and soak it in because it’s an opportunity a lot of people don’t get.”
Osahor, selected the regional’s most valuable player, matched a career high with 24 points and had 18 rebounds. Plum, who began the day as the third-leading scorer in Division I, had 26 points and eight assists.
Their efforts made Washington the first team seeded seventh or lower to reach a Final Four since Minnesota got there in 2004. Washington (26-10) will face Syracuse (29-7) in a semifinal April 3 in Indianapolis.
“We’re not done yet,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “’What’s Next?’ has been our motto. It’s going to continue to be all the way through Indy.”
This marked the first regional final between two Pac-12 schools since Stanford beat USC 82-62 on its way to winning the national championship in 1992, when the conference was still known as the Pac-10.
Washington scored the game’s first 12 points, had a 22-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and stayed ahead the rest of the way.
Stanford (27-8) pulled to 78-73 on Lili Thompson’s 3-pointer with 1:07 left. An offensive foul on Plum allowed Stanford to get the ball back, but Thompson missed a 3-pointer with a minute remaining.
“We dug ourselves too big a hole in the first quarter,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We just for some reason did not come out with the intensity and aggressiveness that we needed to. But I’m proud of our team. We had a great season.”
Thompson scored 19 points for Stanford (27-8), which was seeking its 13th Final Four appearance overall and seventh in the last nine seasons.
This was the third meeting of the season between the two. Stanford won 69-53 at home on Jan. 29. Washington beat the Cardinal 73-65 on March 4 in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Sioux Falls Regional
No. 4 Syracuse 89, No. 7 Tennessee 67: Alexis Peterson scored a season-high 29 points, Brianna Butler hit three straight 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to break open the game, and Syracuse advanced to its first women’s Final Four.
The Orange (29-7) will play Washington in a national semifinal Sunday in Indianapolis.
Reserve Cornelia Fondren made all six of her shots and finished with 13 points to help Syracuse follow its Friday upset of top-seeded South Carolina with its 15th victory in 16 games.
Diamond DeShields had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols (22-14) in the loss that finished their surprise NCAA run after a 13-loss regular season that was the worst in program history.
Women’s NCAA Tournament
Monday's Regional Finals
Bridgeport: UConn vs. Texas, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Dallas: Baylor vs. Oregon State, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, April 3
UConn-Texas winner vs. Baylor-Oregon State winner, 6 or 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Washington vs. Syracuse, 6 or 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Tuesday, April 5
Semifinals winners, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)