Top-ranked Carolina women clutch in crunch time

Top-ranked Carolina women clutch in crunch time
(Source: Joe Gorchow)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Carolina clutch in crunch time takes home the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic tournament title in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Sunday. The top-ranked Gamecocks (3-0) edge (21)Gonzaga, 79-72.

The championship battle was up for grabs in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs held a slight lead, 64-62, with 5:20 remaining. That’s when tournament MVP, junior guard Destanni Henderson, took over. She scored nine of her game-high 23 points in the final five minutes of action. Her willingness to attack the basket sparked a 12-2 run in a three-minute span, which helped to fend off a Gonzaga rally.

The junior Gamecock guard learned a lot following her MVP performance in South Dakota.

“Not to give up on myself,” said Henderson. “I don’t feel like I played my very best in the first half. I got in foul trouble very early. Focus on that, and do what’s best for the team. I pushed myself in the second half, found easy baskets.”

Henderson is emerging as one of the Gamecock leaders both on and off the floor. Following the departure of two senior stars from last year’s 32-1 team, Henderson becomes a vital voice in Carolina’s success.

“This team is really special,” Henderson added. “We have levels to our team. All of us have to find our role within the game. Not just one person is the leader. We all can be the leader in our own way. Focus on that and what we need to do for our teammates.”

Head coach Dawn Staley likes how her team battled two challenging opponents in the tournament. She feels many teams would shy away from the level of competition faced. Instead, Staley and the Gamecocks welcomed it and came out with a well-deserved tournament title.

“This core group of players found their edge,” added Staley. “They made some undisciplined plays, but, at the same time, they made some plays where you can shake your head and say we’re working with something. They got gut-checked.”

Staley also credits her practice players for providing outstanding work for the team leading up to the two games in South Dakota.

“Our practice players prepared us for this. They were spot on with personnel and challenging us. We were happy they were able to create that advantage because we, ourselves, could not duplicate the style of play South Dakota and Gonzaga gave us this weekend.”

South Carolina returns to action on Thursday, December 3rd, to host North Carolina State.

Gamecocks Stat Leaders:

  • Destanni Henderson: 23 points
  • Brea Beal: 12 points & 7 rebounds
  • Zia Cooke: 16 points

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