Haley Jones scored 24 points and Lexie Hull added 18 points and 13 rebounds Friday as Stanford is headed to the championship game after a nail-biting 66-65 victory over South Carolina at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The Cardinal (30-2) awaits the winner of Connecticut and Arizona in the late game Friday night. The winners play Sunday afternoon for the national championship.
Stanford’s last trip to the title game was 2010 on the same court. Tara VanDerveer had a good chance to break her title-less streak until All-American center Jayne Appell had to play on an injured right ankle. Connecticut won 53-47.
The respective top-seeded Stanford and South Carolina teams locked into a tight game as many predicted. Stanford had an uncomfortable four-point lead at the 5-minute media timeout.
Destiny Henderson made a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left to give South Carolina a 65-64 lead. It was the Gamecocks’ first lead since the first quarter.
But Jones, who made 11 of 14 shots, scored with 32 seconds left for the eventual game-winner.
Sophomore Ashten Prechtel made a big steal with 13 seconds left to preserve the lead.
Stanford had spent 63 days on the road early in the season and traveled more than 7,500 miles. Still, the Cardinal won its first Pac-12 title since 2014 en route to earning the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday, Stanford broke the NCAA Tournament 3-point record by making five shots behind the arc.
Sophomore guard Zia Cooke led South Carolina (26-6) with 25 points.
First-team All-American Aliyah Boston, had 11 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots that came in the first half.
The victory avenged a defeat to South Carolina in the national semifinal game in 2017.
Stanford had a slow start for the second consecutive game trailing by nine points with 4;29 left in the first quarter. The Cardinal had four turnovers and four fouls 4 ½ minutes into the game.
But Stanford didn’t wait until the second half to make a move like it did Tuesday in the Elite Eight. VanDerveer inserted sophomore Ashten Prechtel in the lineup as the Cardinal went on a 9-0 run to end the quarter tied 15-15. The rally was bolstered by consecutive 3-point baskets from Haley Jones and Lexie Hull.
Stanford grabbed its first lead with 9:48 left in the half on Lexie Hull’s two free throws after a drive. Prechtel’s layup made it 19-16 a minute later.
Stanford led 22-17 on a 16-2 run as South Carolina went cold. The Gamecocks failed to make a field goal in more than 9 minutes until Zia Cooke’s 3-pointer with 5:23 left in the half.
Prechtel, a 6-5 sophomore who led a second-half rally as Stanford advanced to the Final Four over Louisville, remained laser-sharp.
She made a 3-pointer to give Stanford a 31-25 halftime lead. Prechtel had seven points and seven rebounds to lead the Cardinal, which also had four 3-pointers to tie the NCAA Tournament record of 54 long-range baskets.
The first half featured 11 blocks — six from Stanford and five from South Carolina. Boston had four blocks.
Stanford clung to a 52-49 lead heading into the final quarter as Lexie Hull made two free throws after Boston got her third foul.