ATHENS — Georgia’s run for an SEC tournament championship came to an end at the hands of women’s basketball juggernaut South Carolina, but not before the Lady Bulldogs served notice they’re a program on the rise.
The No. 7-ranked Gamecocks (22-4) turned back the No. 16-ranked Lady Bulldogs (20-6) by a 67-62 count on Sunday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
Que Morrison, one of UGA’s four senior starters, hit a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to draw the Lady Bulldogs with 3 points.
South Carolina was up to the final challenge. Aliyah Boston (27 points) hit two free throws with 13 seconds left to seal the victory.
“Today showed us how close we are,” Sixth-year UGA coach Joni Taylor said. “A couple of balls bounce another way, a couple of calls go another way ….. this weekend showed what we are capable of.”
It’s South Carolina’s sixth SEC tourney title in the last seven years. It’s also the Gamecocks’ 14th straight win over Georgia dating back to 2013 when Andy Landers was the UGA head coach.
Sunday’s game marked the first time in the SEC tournament history finals that two black head coaches faced off in the title game.
“Nobody thought we’d be here,” said senior Jen Staiti, who had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, “so I’m really proud of this team and proud of our coaches.”
Staiti scored in double figures in all three of UGA’s SEC tournament games and was named to the all-tournament team along with fellow senior and teammate Maya Caldwell.
The teams now await the NCAA women’s basketball tournament selection show at 7 p.m. on March 15 (ESPN).
Georgia fans will be tuned in.
Taylor has brought excitement and promise back to the program.
“We fell short, it stings, it hurts” Taylor said on Sunday. “But we’re not done playing basketball.”
While Taylor and her four senior starters will turn their immediate attention to the upcoming NCAA tournament, Georgia fans note the Lady Bulldogs’ future is bright with two McDonald’s All-American signees in the 2021 class.
Jillian Hollingshead (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Reigan Richardson (Huntersville, N.C.) are on board and provide optimist the Lady Bulldogs will be competing for the league title again next season.
The program is no doubt on a rise, improving from last season’s 17-14 mark, which included lopsided defeats of 88-53 and 89-56 to the Gamecocks last season.
Caldwell explained how UGA has established itself as a team to watch for in the NCAA tourney and moving forward.
“We work hard day in and day out, every practice,” Caldwell said this weekend. “ We get in the gym on our own, and the results show. We play for each other.”
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