March Madness made its triumphant return in 2021 and it did not disappoint. One of the best Cinderella stories from the tournament came from 11-seed UCLA who somehow managed to claw its way to the Final Four with wins over Michigan St., UConn, Maryland, Alabama, and Michigan. Gonzaga was unbeaten heading into the game and thought they’d have an easy path to the Finals against UCLA. That wasn’t the case.
Tournament standout Johnny Juzang dropped 29 points as the 22-9 Bruins almost ruined the Bulldogs’ hopes at a perfect season. Those hopes would be dashed a few days later against Baylor, but thanks to the heroics of one Jalen Suggs, the Bulldogs kept their dream alive a little bit longer. With the score tied at 90 in overtime and just three seconds left in the game, Suggs took the inbound pass, crossed half court and chucked up a prayer just before the buzzer. It banked in. The Final Four is known for bringing heart-pulsing moments, and this one was incredible to watch happen live.
The women’s Final Four was just as remarkable. Perennial powerhouse Stanford was set for a match with fellow 1-seed South Carolina, and the game stayed incredibly competitive throughout. The largest lead for either team at the end of a quarter was six, and the fourth quarter was absolutely bonkers.
After ending the third quarter up three, the Cardinal went on a short run to start the fourth and go up six with six minutes to go. After that, the Lady Gamecocks slowly clawed their way up to Stanford, but could never take the lead for themselves.
With a minute and a half to go, South Carolina was down five, but refused to give up. After a three-point play from guard Destanni Henderson, the Lady Gamecocks were within two. South Carolina had an opportunity to tie after a steal led to a 3-on-2 fast break, but a great block by Stanford’s Haley Jones kept her team in front. Then, with 40 seconds left, Henderson hit a triple to take the lead, it was South Carolina’s first lead of the quarter. Stanford answered right back with a deep baseline jumper from Jones. South Carolina had one last opportunity to take the lead. Henderson tried to make a play, but when trying to kick the ball out to the perimeter, was intercepted by Stanford’s Ashten Prechtel. The Cardinal would go on to win the game and faced Arizona in the championship. Another incredibly close game ensued, but the Cardinal came out victorious, securing their third-ever national title. Here’s to hoping 2022’s March Madness tournaments are just as thrilling.