SPOKANE, Wash. — Layshia Clarendon was the first to get her hands on the regional championship trophy. Rightfully so, after getting California somewhere they've never gone before: the Final Four.
Clarendon scored 17 of her 25 points in the second half and overtime, and California rallied from down 10 with less than 7 minutes left to beat Georgia 65-62 in the Spokane Regional final and advance to the national semifinals for the first time in school history.
Clarendon and the second-seeded Golden Bears became the first team from the western U.S. other than Stanford to reach the Final Four since Long Beach State in 1988. They did it with a gritty rally down the stretch and big shots by Clarendon, Afure Jemerigbe and Talia Caldwell.
During that 25-year span, eight different programs in the West have reached the regional finals. But whether it was Long Beach State, Washington, USC, UCLA, Colorado, Utah, Arizona State or Gonzaga, they all came up one game short — sometimes at the hands of Stanford — of advancing.
California, and second-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb, finally broke the string. Gottlieb threw her arms in the air when Shacobia Barbee's desperation half-court shot at the buzzer bounced off the backboard and wore a huge grin throughout the postgame celebration.
Connecticut 83, Kentucky 53.
At Bridgeport, Conn., Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut Huskies are headed back to a familiar place — the Final Four.
Breanna Stewart scored 21 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 to help top-seed UConn rout Kentucky and advance to a record sixth-straight national semifinal.
The Huskies will face either Notre Dame or Duke in the national semifinals on Sunday in New Orleans. The Irish and Blue Devils play tonight.
The road to an eighth title got a bit easier for the Huskies (33-4) when defending national champion Baylor lost to Louisville on Sunday night. Still they could face the Irish, who have eliminated them in the past two Final Fours and won seven of the past eight meetings between the teams, including all three this season.
UConn broke a tie with Stanford (2008-12), LSU (2004-08) and itself (2000-04) by reaching the Final Four again.