Layshia Clarendon was the first to get her hands on the regional championship trophy. Rightfully so, after getting California somewhere...
SPOKANE — 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 seven 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.
“(Layshia) is the glue,” Cal’s Afure Jemerigbe said. “She’s always poised. She is always there.”
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During that 25-year span, eight different programs in the West have reached the regional finals. But whether it was Washington, Long Beach State, USC, UCLA, Colorado, Utah, Arizona State or Gonzaga, they all came up one game short — sometimes at the hands of Stanford — of advancing.
California (32-3), and 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.
“I knew this was possible. I believed more in this group than anyone ever and this is still better than my wildest dreams,” Gottlieb said. “So many things go into it and then you have to get a little lucky and then things have to go right, so I’m really conscious this is special.”
Added motivation to make it to New Orleans for the Bears?
“Beignets. We have been joking about that the whole time,” Clarendon said of the French dessert. “We’re going to New Orleans and we’re going to get beignets.”
Jemerigbe scored 14 and Caldwell had 10, with six coming in the final 3:30 of regulation and in overtime. Barbee led Georgia with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“I don’t think the words can even explain right now. Disappointed, hurt,” said Georgia’s Jasmine James, who had 11 points before fouling out. “To have something that you’ve always wanted to be able to do, just be so close, and to end up getting outworked for it, it hurts.”
Georgia (28-7) managed to force overtime despite going the final 7:45 of regulation with just one field goal. That came when Anne Marie Armstrong twice came up with offensive rebounds and scored underneath with 8.5 seconds left in regulation to force the extra session.
Clarendon’s three-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
California trailed 49-39 with 6:46 left after Barbee made two free throws.
The Bears got back into the game by halftime after overcoming a horrible shooting start, but each run early in the second half was rebuffed by the Bulldogs.