2019 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championship

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2019 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championship

By Sam Galanopoulos, Sports Editor

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As the final buzzer rings, confetti falls onto the court, and the brand new hardware is wheeled out to center court, the Baylor Lady Bears we crowned the 2019 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Champions. With having a 37-1 record and defeating the defending champions, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (35-4), Baylor has earned their third National Championship, the most recent being seven years prior to the game on Sun., April 7, 2019. Being lead by head coach Kim Mulkey, who just completed her nineteenth season, the Lady Bears were always a team to beat throughout the regular season and were playing their most elite level of basketball when it was crunch time.

At the tip-off, Baylor had possession of the ball to start off the championship game. With key players like senior center Kalani Brown, junior forward Lauren Cox, and the tournament MVP and senior point guard Chloe Jackson, the Irish were in for a battle.

Senior basketball player Lidia Fakhoury had a lot to say about the excitement of the final game.

“Being a basketball player, I love watching the game as much as possible. Especially college, everyone is good, everyone is there to win, and it really doesn’t get much better than that. These two teams have been great all season long and what better way to have the championship than be a nail-biter,” Fakhoury said. “No one wants to watch a blow-out or see a bad game, so this year, it was definitely one to remember.

At the end of the first quarter, the Lady Bears had the lead 25-14. Closing into halftime, they extended their lead to 43-31. Being the best defensive team in the nation, their moment was derived from getting rebounds in the paint and getting out in transition. Niles West girls varsity head basketball coach Kyle Braheny was pleased with the defensive effort by the Lady Bears.

“Being a basketball coach, I wrap my coaching philosophy around defense. Baylor is such a defensively stable team, it was definitely visible to the audience when you watch them play. Their unity, consistent grind, and relentlessness on the defensive end definitely gave them an edge against Notre Dame,” Braheny said.

Continuing into the third quarter, the Lady Bears continued to push into the final stretch, entering the 4th with a score of 66-55. As the game was finishing the last 10-minute stretch, the Lady Bears’ star player, Lauren Cox went down with a left knee injury. Causing a major momentum change, the Irish went on a 15-4 scoring run to cut the lead to three. With four minutes left in the game, the Irish were down 1, 78-77. Senior basketball player Sammie Simkins was definitely feeling anxious as the game was nearing its end.

“Games like these are the best and worst thing all in one. You love to have it close because everyone is on edge and it could go either way, but it also makes you sick to your stomach not knowing how it’s going to end. Basketball, in general, is so much fun to watch at the next level, especially women’s basketball. The hype is always for the guys and the big March Madness tournament that millions of people participate in, but I think the good stuff is in the girls game. You get to see a bunch of great women battle it out on the biggest stage there is,” Simkins said.

With under a minute left in the game, the Lady Bears were winning 82-80. Last year’s tournament MVP Arike Ogunbowale was fouled with three seconds left on the clock. Missing the first shot, it was pretty much assumed that Baylor was going to end victorious. Taking her second attempt, she made the score 82-81.

The clock dwindled down, the final horn went off, and the Lady Bears wrapped up the 2019 season as National Champions. Through the seven-year drought, experimenting with new players, and facing adversity on some of the biggest stages in basketball, Baylor proved that hard work can take you all the way. Although Notre Dame is a very talented team, it wasn’t enough this year to end up on top.