USC, Lexington High alum headed back to Final Four

By Isaiah Lucas
Posted 3/29/23

The ability to counter after getting stunned is a trait every great champion possesses.

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USC, Lexington High alum headed back to Final Four


The ability to counter after getting stunned is a trait every great champion possesses.

Top-seeded South Carolina once again displayed that trait on Monday to beat No. 2 seed Maryland 86-75 to advance to its third consecutive Final Four and continue the quest for an undefeated season and second consecutive national championship.

The Terrapins came out and played frenetically, giving the Gamecocks some trouble. It was the first time during this tournament that South Carolina looked out of sorts. Maryland was able to force the Gamecocks to turn the ball over five times and led 21-15 at the end of the quarter. Despite trailing, South Carolina did what it could to make sure star forward Aliyah Boston was getting involved. The senior accounted for six of the Gamecocks’ 15 points in the quarter.

South Carolina came out and flipped the script and dominated in the second quarter.

The Gamecocks went on a 9-2 run before the quarter’s media timeout to go up 24-23. Following the timeout, USC continued playing the brand of basketball many have become accustomed to expect. The Gamecocks defended hard, attacked the glass, and closed the quarter on a 14-7 run to take a 38-30 lead into the break.

The second half started and South Carolina looked more in control as the game progressed. For every bucket the Terps would score, the Gamecocks seemed to have an answer and USC led 62-50 heading into the fourth quarter.

Boston was phenomenal, finishing the game with a team-high 22 points while also leading the team in rebounds (11) and finishing second on the team with five assists. It was the type of performance a National Player of the Year candidate typically puts up on this stage.

The Gamecocks were able to keep the lead out of Maryland’s reach throughout the fourth quarter.  

Boston, Zia Cooke (18 points, seven rebounds versus Maryland) and Brea Beal (16 points, seven rebounds and six assists) were all named to the Greenville 1 Regional All-Tournament team and Boston was named the Greenville 1 Regional Most Outstanding Player. The three seniors came in together in 2019 and have been the anchor for this current period of success in the South Carolina program under Staley.

“They’re seasoned, they’re veterans, they know how to win,” Staley explained. “They know how to win at different styles of play. And the main thing is they just don’t want to lose, so they sacrifice themselves for the greater good of our team.”

Staley offered words of reflection for each member of that 2019 recruiting class and labeled former Lexington star Olivia Thompson as the “best teammate you can ever have.”

For Thompson getting back to this stage is something she feels is beyond special.

“It’s amazing,” Thompson said. “This team has worked all year to get to this very moment. This has been our goal since the season ended last year. So just to be back in this position, it just means everything. It’s just a testament to the hard work that we’ve put in all season.

“We’ve just got to finish it now. Just one game at a time. This is so much fun. When we get to celebrate our wins like this in this kind of way, it means everything. I’m so excited that we get to do this. It’s such a special group of people and I’m excited for what’s next.”

South Carolina plays No. 2 seed Iowa in the NCAA Women's Final Four in  Dallas at 9 p.m. March 31. The game airs on ESPN and ESPN+.

usc women's basketball, olivia thompson lexington high


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