The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship was never in doubt. The University of South Carolina dominated this season from start to finish. The extraordinary Aliyah Boston garnered every possible postseason honor, including Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, but the unexpected star of the championship game was senior guard Destanni Henderson, whose 26 points made her the first player in history to achieve a career high in the title game.
“I felt like my teammates put me in a good position to score the basketball,” said Henderson, who is expected to declare for the upcoming WNBA Draft. “I found open gaps and when they collapsed in the paint, Aliyah or whoever it was that was passing the ball just found me out on the perimeter, and I just let it fly.”
This is the second NCAA Title for head coach Dawn Staley’s career. The Gamecocks previously won in 2017. The star of that team, A’ja Wilson was in the stands to witness the 64-49 victory over University of Connecticut. While Connecticut holds a record 11 National Championships, this was the first appearance in the championship game since 2016. After a season beset with injuries—including the team’s star Paige Bueckers missing 19 games—the Huskies’ presence in the final was testament to the enduring power of the program.
“Obviously when you play in a game like this and you don’t win, it’s just incredibly difficult,” said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma. “I’m proud of our guys just to get here, just to be in this situation. Tonight we just didn’t have enough. They were just too good for us.”
Although as a point guard Staley was always the coach on the floor, she hesitated to become a college coach because she didn’t want to be responsible for 18- to 22-year-olds. When she finally decided to do it, she discovered that she loved it. “I’m living my passion,” Staley told ESPN after the win.
Boston has drawn attention since her freshman season, and this year she lived up to all the hype. She received the Wade Trophy and was named a WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All American.
“I’ve been around a lot of great basketball players who have been dominant, and I saw it in her and I would not allow her to be anything less than that,” said Staley. “From a basketball standpoint, I think I’m the perfect coach for her because I recognize what her gifts are and how to walk into that.”