South Carolina star Alia Boston dominated with 28 points and 22 plates in the Sweet 16 win

South Carolina star Alia Boston dominated with 28 points and 22 plates in the Sweet 16 win

Greensboro, NC – When South Carolina needed to give up their fourth-quarter game against North Carolina at Sweet 16 Friday night, the Gamecocks predictably turned out to be their best player.

And the High Boston Dominate in a whole new way.

Boston scored all of South Carolina’s points in the final quarter, to lead the top-seeded Gamecocks to the Elite Eight with a 69-61 victory. Despite North Carolina’s efforts to limit its points in the paint, Boston was able to dominate the game largely due to its offensive rebounds, second-chance points, and free throws.

She finished with 28 points and 22 rebounds, the first time in her career that she had scored more than 20 points and 20 rebounds in a single game. This was only the fourth time in the history of the NCAA Women’s Championship that a player had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a game.

Asked at the post-game press conference if she was claiming the ball in the fourth quarter, Boston answered no, then added, “Maybe I should have” before laughing.

“I was just being patient and a lot of it came from rebounds because they took the expected shots,” she said. “I was only able to be there for the bounce, so I just tried to smash the boards.”

North Carolina coach and players Courtney Bangart decided that the best game plan was to stop points in the paint. While South Carolina was below its average in that category to a low 20 points on the season, its improved perimeter release allowed the Gamecocks to increase their lead to double digits when the third quarter ended.

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But the Tar Heels did another run after the shooting was stopped in the vicinity of South Carolina, closing the gap to four with 2:02 remaining to play. There was just one problem: Banning South Carolina from making 3s isn’t enough when Boston is on the ground. Layup 55 seconds before the end of the game, basically decided the win. Eight of the 13 points in the final quarter were second-chance points, an area that South Carolina dominated throughout the game.

“You saw them in a movie while preparing. It’s not just us that’s going on, is it?” North Carolina coach Courtney Bangart said. “She’s from generation to generation that way with how her body has changed. She is strong and strong. She has a kind of dancer. She is tireless.

“She’s excellent—I wish she was old enough to go to the pros. I was sitting in the front row to celebrate her enlistment because I think I’ve seen enough. I’ve had one chance, and I’ve seen enough Aaliyah Boston.”

Colleague Victoria Saxton Gamecocks said something special was happening in the fourth quarter.

“I think we get together and say to her, ‘We want you to get in there and be in control. When you get the ball, score,'” Saxton said. “I really loved watching that, being a part of it, and just seeing her do what she’s doing.”

Boston, for its part, said it wanted to keep dominance in mind throughout the quarter.

“Just smash the slates. We talked about it. Make sure that once they take the expected shots, we’re just going to smash the slabs. And I was able to do that.”

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At this point in her career, it’s hard to find new accolades to describe what Boston is doing on court. The numbers can speak for themselves. She now has a double in 27 consecutive games, and has a double in each half of the game. She almost had a double in the fourth quarter alone—she had nine rebounds recorded on the program in the fourth quarter.

“If you look at the games we’ve played and the big games we’ve played, they’ve been dominant,” South Carolina coach Don Staley said. “She has goals in mind. Obviously, the big goal is to win a national championship. That’s what she was talking about. That’s what the whole group was talking about.

“She had goals and she wanted to win the National Player of the Year. Some people can have those goals and not achieve them and make people guess what it is. She goes out there and performs. Nobody has performed at the highest level against the best competition in our country consistently all season, I think she wants it.”

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