The No. 2-seed South Carolina women's basketball team beat the No. 4-seed Georgia Bulldogs 67-62 to win the 2021 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament Championship on Sunday afternoon.
The Gamecocks have now won back-to-back SEC Championships, and it is the Gamecocks' sixth championship win in the last seven years.
Sophomore forward Aliyah Boston and junior guard Destanni Henderson both played a crucial role in South Carolina's victory.
Boston finished with yet another double-double, totaling 27 points on 8-12 from the field, 10-12 from the charity stripe and 10 rebounds. Henderson had 18 points on 7-18 shooting, nine rebounds and three assists.
The first half was highlighted by fast-paced offenses from both sides. The two teams totaled nine lead changes in the first quarter alone.
Georgia took an early lead, finishing the first quarter up 23-17 thanks to senior guard Gabby Connally and senior guard Maya Caldwell, who had 5 points each in the first quarter. The Bulldogs shot 60% from the field and 75% from beyond the arc; much better than the Gamecocks, who shot 40% from the field and 0% from the 3-point line in the first quarter.
"At the beginning, it was kind of hard," Boston said. "They were really expecting [the ball] to go inside."
A second-quarter shooting surge from behind the arc and a solid defense are the main reasons the Gamecocks got back into the game going into halftime.
South Carolina held Georgia to 47.8% from the field in the second quarter and 0% from three. Thanks to 3-pointers from Boston, Henderson and a buzzer beater from sophomore guard Zia Cooke, the Gamecocks shot 75% from the 3-point line in the second quarter.
Cooke's buzzer beater at the end of the second quarter tied the game up at 35 apiece going into the half.
The Gamecock defense stepped up in the second half, holding Georgia to only 8 points in the third quarter. Georgia only shot 22.2% from the field in the second quarter. South Carolina continued its success and went on a run, eventually leading by as much as 9 points in the third quarter.
"It was a hard-fought victory for us," head coach Dawn Staley said. "That's what you expect from being an SEC Tournament champion."
For a brief moment in the fourth quarter it looked like Georgia might be able to gain back the lead, thanks to 11 points from senior guard Que Morrison, who finished the game with 20 points. The Bulldogs outscored the Gamecocks 19-15 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough to complete the comeback.
Both teams will now look toward the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday on March 15 will reveal the field of 64 teams.
"I'm really excited. I know our team is really excited," Boston said. "I think we're definitely ready and just excited for the challenge."