World news – NCAA Women’s Finals: Kiana Williams, Stanford, one step away from dream season

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Ever since San Antonio was announced as the venue for the 2021 Final Four three years ago, Stanford Point Guard Kiana Williams has been looking forward to this moment – she’s playing for a championship in her senior year in her hometown with dozens of friends and family which stands.

It kept them motivated during the long off-season after the NCAA tournament was canceled last year and Stanford was forced on a 65-day road trip due to public health restrictions in Santa Clara County and when consecutive losses increased the season threatened to derail in January.

Now the time has finally come. Stanford (30-2), the top overall seed, will face the third seed and conference rivals Arizona (21-5) in the title game on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at the Alamodome (ESPN).

« I would talk to her about it – in order to get to San Antonio we have to do this, » said cardinal trainer Tara VanDerveer. “All spring, all summer, all autumn was the goal to come here. We are on the verge of a dream come true for Kiana Williams. « 

With the pandemic that forced the entire tournament to be played in San Antonio, Williams had 50-60 cheer sections at each game.

« I told them this was a competition for tickets, so if I don’t hear you, I’ll have to freak you out, » Williams said last week. « Seriously, it’s great to be home. I haven’t played in front of my family all year. For the tournament to be here, I just want to try my best for my senior year. »

But the opportunity turned into a double-edged sword for Williams, who seemed to be exerting too much pressure as the pressure increased. She missed eleven shots in a row when Stanford was 12 points behind Louisville at halftime, before the Cardinal made a big comeback and won the Elite Eight at 15.

« I just had to change my mentality, » Williams said of the game in Louisville. “I forced things. I think I wanted it to be a shame. I didn’t let the game come to me. So Tara attacked me, my coaches attacked me and my teammates picked me up and all I had to do was change my mentality in the second half.  »

Then Williams only shot 4-14 and failed to make a 3-pointer against South Carolina for the second time in the entire season on Friday when Stanford escaped between 66 and 65.

« Yeah, I think she’s putting a lot of pressure on herself, » said VanDerveer. « She is in her hometown. I think being in the championship game will help her a lot. It will be like that. They will focus on her. She will answer. I know she has a great game about her.  »

It doesn’t get any easier against Arizona (21: 5), who appear in the Final Four for the first time. Williams is likely to be followed by Aari McDonald, the first Pac-12 player since Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike in 2014, who was named both Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year that same season.

Williams is 7:20 off the field with six assists and four turnovers in two games against Arizona this season – Stanford’s 81-54 road win on New Years Day and a 62-48 win at the Maples Pavilion on February 22nd.

These games were anomalies for Williams, who on Saturday became the 12th player in program history to be selected as the All-American First Team by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

She leads the team with 14.3 points and 3.1 templates per game. On the Stanford all-time lists, she currently ranks 10th in points, ninth in assists, first in 3-pointers and second in free-throw percentages.

« Kiana was just a phenomenal coach, » said VanDerveer. « She’s incredibly selfless, hardworking, playing on both ends of the floor and a team leader in how she just wants our team to win. She does so much for our team. »

It also brings a sense of déjà vu to VanDerveer. Stanford won its first title in Knoxville in 1990, when Senior Point Guard Jennifer Azzi was the top female player in her home state of Tennessee. Now Williams has a chance to achieve the same thing.

« I want her to be relaxed and enjoy playing in her hometown, » said VanDerveer. “This is their home game and I’m just having fun. I think it’s really special. « 

Ref: https://www.eastbaytimes.com

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