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Why, yes, it is, and I believe it’s the Cal Bears who are singing it! (Or, maybe it’s “Started From the Bottom”)

From Elliott: Cal women’s basketball team reaches its first Final Four

These Cal Bears just don’t quit.

Cal reached its first Final Four in history Monday night with another overtime victory — this time a 65-62 thriller over Georgia in front of a crowd of 5,863 at Spokane Arena.

The Bears (32-3) will play either Tennessee or Louisville in the national semifinals Sunday at New Orleans Arena.

Don’t count out Cal to reach the finale April 9. Not with a senior-led roster buoyed by gritty guard Layshia Clarendon, who had 25 points, including five in overtime, against the Lady Bulldogs.

From the AP:

 California coach Lindsay Gottlieb was in elementary school the last time a West Coast women’s basketball program not named Stanford reached the Final Four.

Gottlieb understood the drought and the difficulty in getting to the national semifinals. That’s partly why the grin on her face was so wide Monday night when Cal finally snapped that 25-year streak, sending the Golden Bears to New Orleans for the Final Four.

“These kids are brought in,” 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 of this is special.”

From the Daily Californian:

All year long, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb wanted the Cal women’s basketball team to be recognized as an elite team. On Monday night at Spokane, Wash., the team took one step further in solidifying its rising recognition.

Seung Lee adds: A new era begins for California basketball

Breathe it in. Soak it up. Because, possibly, you’ll never see anything quite like this.

For the first 36 minutes against Georgia Monday night, the Cal women’s basketball team did not play Cal basketball. Star forward Gennifer Brandon couldn’t make a single shot. The offense was stuffed by Georgia’s zone defense.

Then it all just clicked at the most pivotal time.

From the Spokesman Review: Gritty Bears in Final Four

The University of California women’s basketball team didn’t expect anything less than a tug-of-war Monday night.

Earning its first trip to an NCAA Final Four couldn’t have been more difficult. And, in the end, more rewarding.

From David Lassen at the Alumni Report: Clarendon, Cal reach Final Four

Layshia Clarendon (San Bernardino Cajon) scored a game-high 25 points and Cal survived its second overtime game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, beating Georgia 65-62 in Spokane, Wash., on Monday to advance to the Women’s Final Four in New Orleans.

Writes Michelle:

There might not be a cooler customer left in this NCAA tournament than the Cal senior with the sweet jumper. She is a patch of still water, an island of poise and surety.

Even her coach follows her lead.

“That kid is something special,” Lindsay Gottlieb said. “To have a guard like Layshia, who can look at her teammates and say, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ who handles the pressure she handles … there’s no question, you don’t get this far without a player like that.”

How far exactly? To New Orleans.

More praise from the AP: Cal senior Layshia Clarendon comes up clutch in leading Golden Bears to Final Four

Layshia Clarendon was smiling when California was trailing, was smiling when leading the Golden Bears rally, and couldn’t wipe the smile from her face after leading her team to its first Final Four.

“This is why you play basketball, for these big moments. Really enjoy them and just relish them,” Clarendon said.

What’s the Bear’s Winning Formula?, asks Cathy Cockrell, Aim high, don’t forget to dance

Gottlieb: I see it as my mission to take Cal basketball to the next level, and make this one of the premier programs in the country. There’s a lot of ways to do that. Obviously you have to put great players on the floor, and run great plays.

But I feel like there’s a shift going on in women’s basketball, where many of the pioneers of the game are getting close to retiring. So there’s an opportunity to help shape what this program looks like going forward.

But, there’s also the other side of winning:

Georgia seniors Jasmine Hassell and Jasmine James arrived at the interview room of the Spokane Arena with reddened, tear-filled eyes that told the story of their final college basketball game more than any stats sheet ever could.

Only minutes removed from a 65-62 overtime loss to California, Hassell and James tried to explain their emotions after the Lady Bulldogs blew a 10-point lead in the second half and fell one win short of the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.

Said coach Landers:

“I think, for the most part, this was a game that played out somewhat the way we thought it would,” UGA coach Andy Landers said. “We felt it was very important to get back in transition, that it was very important to keep the ball out of the lane, and to rebound the ball defensively, and when we were doing those things well, we were in a good position. When we broke down defensively and allowed that penetration and allowed them to rebound the ball on offense, we got in trouble. They’re a very good basketball team and have a lot of nice pieces. They made more plays than we did, and they deserve to win the game.”

There was another game last night and someone is singing “Aerosmith” (for the sixth time in row), ’cause what happened to the Wildcats was simple: A dreadful 9 minutes:

Connecticut whipped us in every way imaginable,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It was a rough 40 minutes for us tonight and they had a lot to do with that. They’re a very good team and I thought their players played extremely hard. We congratulate them.

Kevin Duffy: UConn fulfills obligation 6 years running, Post
Rich Elliott: Freshman Stewart earning raves, Post

UConn Puts The Hammer Down, Earns Sixth Straight Trip To Final Four, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Baylor’s Loss Could Be UConn’s Gain, Courant

Huskies reach record sixth straight Final Four with rout of Kentucky, Register
Mike DiMauro: UConn women headed to Final Four for record sixth straight time, Register

Narratives change in sports much like cabbies in Manhattan: quickly, sometimes astonishingly and occasionally without much warning.

And so we present the UConn women, the belles of wouldas, shouldas and couldas all season, the owners of all the forlorn looks three weeks ago after another brutal loss to Notre Dame.

Could this have been the same group awash in utter joy Monday night?

Huskies advance to Final Four, Daily Campus

UConn 83, Kentucky 53, ESPN

“It definitely doesn’t get old,” UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “Each year is different, special in its own way. This is our last go-around, we want to go out with a bang. I’m fortunate to be part of this program where we make it every year. We never are satisfied until we get to that final game.”

Stewart leads way for UConn, ESPN

In one corner of Connecticut’s locker room, senior Heather Buck played a game of UNO with three teammates. The players were still wearing their uniforms, legs crossed, each holding a handful of cards, occupying themselves as they’ve learned to do.

Across the room, a ring of media encircled freshman Breanna Stewart, the reporters peppering her with questions about her 21-point performance, about how it feels to help the Huskies advance to the Final Four — their sixth consecutive — next weekend in New Orleans.

Between these two groups wandered some familiar faces — guard Caroline Doty, forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, center Stefanie Dolson — who were eating chicken fingers and teasing Stewart, happily distracting their younger teammate by occasionally calling out things such as, “Breanna is the best player ever!” and “We’re no good! We can’t talk!

Connecticut women roll to 83-53 win over Kentucky in Elite Eight, Lexington Herald Leader
UConn ends Kentucky’s bid once again, Lexington Herald Leader

Last season, Connecticut’s big run came midway through the second half, but this season it came early and often, including a 26-3 spree to end the first half and any hope of a Kentucky comeback at Webster Bank Arena in front of 8,594.

In that span, Kentucky managed just one basket, a banked in three-pointer by little-used reserve Jelleah Sidney, in the final 10 minutes of the first half. UK missed 13 shots in that second part of the second half.

Mark Story: UK women hit a class ceiling in effort to make Final Four, Lexington Herald Leader

So, now the questions start.

Any talk that Mitchell “can’t win the big one” is wildly premature. In its now three Elite Eight losses on his watch, Kentucky has faced opponents that were seeded higher and had more talent than the Cats.

However, it is hard not to wonder if the style of play that has turned UK into a consistent NCAA round of eight team might need to be tweaked a bit for Kentucky to take the proverbial next step. Can a team as reliant on full-court defensive pressure and points off turnovers as Kentucky break through against teams as skilled as UConn?

Finally (and Diggins can blame GH if things don’t go the way she wants tonight), Graham has: Five who got the last laugh

He or she who laughs last, gets closer to New Orleans. Maybe that’s not exactly how the phrase goes, but the second week of the NCAA tournament served as an opportunity for players, coaches and even conferences to make a point.

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Point guards lead the way in Sweet 16

We may be living in the year of the quarterback, but March will always be the month of the point guard.

When the Sweet 16 gets under way on Saturday afternoon, some of the biggest stars on the court will be the smallest players on the court. From eight standout seniors looking to play at least one more game to four freshmen who appear ready to battle for bragging rights for years to come, the weekend’s most intriguing subplots may come from duels between players who do considerably more than merely bring the ball up the floor.

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