Battle For The Final Four!
March 25, 2001
REGIONAL: West, final.
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Jackie Stiles is already in the women's basketball record book. With one more brilliant performance, she could be in the Final Four.
Stiles will try to lead fifth-seeded Southwest Missouri State past sixth-seeded Washington, which will have a home crowd advantage, in the West Regional final.
Earlier this season, Stiles became the leading scorer in women's basketball history. Her most impressive accomplishments, however, may have come in this tournament.
Stiles has led the Lady Bears to the brink of their first Final Four since 1992 by overwhelming Rutgers and Duke in her last two games. After scoring 32 points in a second-round victory over the Scarlet Knights, the 5-foot-8 guard had 41 in Saturday night's 81-71 win over the top-seeded Blue Devils.
"We always smile at Southwest Missouri State when we hear people say, 'Well, she just plays in the Missouri Valley Conference,"' coach Cheryl Burnett said. "We know Jackie Stiles has played like this against the best in the country, and this is another great example of it."
Stiles scored 25 points in the second half Saturday and was cheered on by the Spokane Arena crowd. That crowd will likely be cheering for the other team Monday night.
Washington's surprising run continued in front of the home fans Saturday night with an 84-67 upset of Oklahoma. The Huskies, just 8-22 a year ago, have ousted the West's third-seeded and second-seeded teams in their last two games.
Megan Franza overcame a slow start to score 17 points as the Huskies advanced to the regional final for the first time since 1990. They have never reached the Final Four.
"I was so frustrated in the first half, but I was so proud of my team stepping up and playing so well," Franza said. "These girls are so amazing."
The Huskies showed that they may be strong enough defensively to slow Stiles, who is averaging 28.7 points in the tournament. Washington limited Oklahoma to just 35 percent shooting and forced LaNeisha Caufield to miss all 11 of her shots. She was averaging 16.1 points and averaged 23.7 in last year's tournament.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Washington - F Andrea Lalum (9.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg), F LeAnn Sheets (7.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg), G Loree Payne (11.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg), G Franza (16.2 ppg, 3.6 apg), G Giuliana Mendiola (11.3 ppg, 4.0 apg). Southwest Missouri State - F Tara Mitchem (13.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), F Carly Deer (9.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg), C Erika Rante (5.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg), G Stiles (30.5 ppg, 2.0 apg), G Melody Campbell (1.9 ppg, 4.4 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Washington - At-large bid, Pac-10, defeated Old Dominion 67-65, first round, defeated Florida 86-75, second round, defeated Oklahoma 84-67, regional semifinals. Southwest Missouri State - Automatic bid, Missouri Valley Conference tournament champion, defeated Toledo 89-71, first round, defeated Rutgers 60-53, second round, defeated Duke 81-71, regional semifinals.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Washington - 14-12, 13 years. Southwest Missouri State - 13-9, 10 years.