Final Four Highlights

by Joshua Lopes on April 15, 2021


Men’s Final Four

By Leo Hainline ’22

Sports Staff

The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament featured one of the best Final Four games to ever be played when Gonzaga University defeated the University of California, Los Angeles. It then culminated with a worthy champion in Baylor University.

UCLA, an 11-seed that barely made the field of 68 and had to play in one of the first four games of the tournament, had been playing incredible basketball, knocking off both their region’s one-seed and two-seed during their journey to the Final Four. They brought that same energy and momentum into their matchup with Gonzaga and went back and forth with the Bulldogs all night. 

The game was filled with iconic moments. One of the best during regulation was when Jalen Suggs blocked Bruins big-man Cody Riley from behind, before immediately following with an incredible bounce pass that sliced through the UCLA defense to find teammate Drew Timme for a slam dunk. Another big moment was Timme’s charge that he drew on UCLA star Johnny Juzang when the Bruins had an opportunity to win the game. 

In overtime, Timme took over with unstoppable post-moves as the Bulldogs took a late five-point lead. However, the Bruins kept fighting and were able to tie the game thanks to a three-pointer from Jamie Jaquez Jr. and a put-back layup from Juzang. With three seconds left, Suggs received the inbounds pass, pushed the ball up the court, and pulled up to hit one of the most incredible shots in the history of March Madness.

 That is when the luck ran out for the Bulldogs, however, as they were thoroughly outplayed by Baylor in the national championship game. The Bears were automatic from behind the arc and were clearly the more aggressive team on both ends of the court. Led by guard Jared Butler, the Bears brought a level of intensity that the Bulldogs were unable to match. In the end, Baylor took home their program’s first-ever national championship.

 While this year’s tournament was undoubtedly a great one, the lack of fans in the arenas was a noticeable loss. The great moments, while still amazing to watch, could have been even more amazing with seats packed with people. Imagine: Gonzaga and UCLA playing in front of a packed Lucas Oil Stadium. Moments like that deserve to be watched in front of an audience, and hopefully, these special sporting events will soon begin to feel normal again with arenas and stadiums back at full capacity.

Women’s Final Four

By Liam Tormey ’22

Sports Assistant Editor

In a season unlike any other, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament was, unsurprisingly, full of excitement.

All but one of the number one seeds were able to make it through to the Final Four of the tournament. The number one seed in the Mercado region, North Carolina State University, was defeated by Indiana University in the Sweet Sixteen. The three remaining top seeds in Stanford University, University of South Carolina, and the University of Connecticut all secured a place in the Final Four, alongside the University of Arizona.

Led by the winningest coach in Division I women’s basketball history, Tara VanDerveer, Stanford rolled through their opponents before their Final Four matchup with South Carolina. Prior to then, Stanford had secured victories against Utah Valley University, Oklahoma State University, Missouri State University, and the University of Louisville. South Carolina took care of their work just like Stanford. After dominating Mercer University, Oregon State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Texas at Austin, the Final Four matchup between South Carolina and Stanford was set.

In a game which came down to the wire, Stanford was able to survive a gritty South Carolina team 66-65. Haley Jones led Stanford with 24 points and hit the game-winning jump shot. With five seconds left, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston stole the ball and passed to Brea Beal. Beal missed a layup, but the ball fell back into Boston’s hand. However, her put-back also went off the back of the rim, giving Stanford the victory.

On the flip side of the bracket, UConn and Arizona met in the other semifinal matchup. Led by Paige Bueckers, the John R. Wooden Award winner, the Huskies were the likely favorite coming into the tournament. They steamed through the RiverWalk region, winning their first three games by 20 or more points before a close Elite Eight battle with Baylor University.

Arizona was the surprise of the tournament. Led by head coach Adia Barnes, Arizona made it through the Mercado region, upsetting Texas A&M University along the way.

When Arizona met UConn in the Final Four, the Wildcats gave them more than they could handle. Arizona pulled out a 69-59 victory, highlighted by Aari McDonald’s 26 points. A stunner of an upset, it ended the Huskies’ title hopes.

The championship game was everything one could have asked for, coming right down to the final seconds. Each team’s star player, including Stanford’s Haley Jones, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and Arizona’s Aari McDonald, stepped up on the biggest stage. Down by one with seconds to go, Arizona had the chance to win their first title ever, but McDonald’s three hit off the front iron, giving Stanford their first championship since 1992 by a score of 54-53.