Shaina Pellington has a breakout game as Aari McDonald says, “Goodbye”
When it comes to Arizona and Stanford, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. The admiration between head coaches Tara VanDerveer and Adia Barnes is well-known. What it does breed for the Cardinal is the ability to be prepared for the Wildcats’ defense.
A common refrain from previous opponents was that they had never experienced anything like the Arizona ball pressure. The Cardinal had done so multiple times over the past several years, and they have been very successful simply because of depth, talent, and experienced leaders. Having the coach with the most wins in Division I history doesn’t hurt, either.
Stanford had also been effective at limiting Aari McDonald this season. It was the story once again Sunday as the Cardinal won the national title 54-53. McDonald fired a contested 3 at the buzzer over three Stanford defenders but it was a tad too long.
Still, she finished her Arizona career without ever scoring fewer than 10 points by putting up 22 points, doing much of her damage from the free-throw line. She went just 5 for 20 from the field, but almost all of her buckets were from distance. She was 4-for-9 from the 3-point line.
Shaina Pellington had her biggest game since donning an Arizona jersey with 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting. She also had 7 rebounds and 3 steals against just a single turnover.
She was the only other Wildcat to score in double figures.
Things could not have gotten off on a worse foot for Arizona. They shot 3 for 19 in the first quarter. On the other end, Stanford was 7 for 16.
Still, the Wildcats were only down by eight after the first 10 minutes. And they were not giving up.
The Wildcats went on a run spurred by that “Arizona defense,” capping it with two free throws, a steal, and a bucket from Shaina Pellington to put them up by one with 4:53 in the half.
Another run by Stanford sent the teams into the locker rooms with the Cardinal up 31-24.
The game of runs would continue. Stanford building a lead, Arizona reeling them back in. With 10 minutes to go, it was a three-point game.
With under a minute left, McDonald stepped to the line. She sank one of two for a three-point game. Another steal by Pellington and a dish to McDonald. Back to the line for two. One-point game. Another Stanford turnover. Six seconds to go.
It was not to be. A desperation shot from long-distance clanked off the back rim.
The Wildcats did not walk away with a title, but won the hearts of much of women’s basketball. It was fitting for a team that has brought great women’s basketball back to Tucson.