Stanford produced a game-ending defensive stop for the second game in a row and captured its first NCAA championship in nearly three decades by defeating upstart Arizona, 54-53, in the title game Sunday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Stanford bottled up Arizona’s Aari McDonald on the last possession and she was unable to make a winning play coming out of a timeout in the waning seconds.
Haley Jones racked up 17 points for Stanford, while Lexie Hull and Cameron Brink both posted 10 points. Hull had 10 rebounds.
Stanford won its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer, but its first since 1992.
The Cardinal (31-2) also won by one point in the semifinals Friday against South Carolina.
McDonald finished with 22 points and reserve Shaina Pellington had 15 points for the Wildcats (21-6), who had never been to the Final Four. They play under fifth-year coach Adia Barnes, an alum.
Stanford defeated Arizona by lopsided margins twice during the Pac-12 Conference regular season, but this one never got out of hand. The Cardinal was held to a season-low point total in this game.
Stanford scored the first three baskets of the fourth quarter after a double-digit lead nearly vanished. But when Shaina Pellington converted a three-point play with 4:51 to play, Arizona was within 51-47.
Two more fruitless Stanford possessions came before McDonald’s 3-pointer. McDonald missed on a potential go-ahead shot with slightly less than three minutes to play.
Jones countered with a three-point play. Other than that basket, the teams combined to miss five field-goal attempts in the last 3:20.
McDonald made a foul shot with a minute remaining and then sank two more at the 36-second mark, leaving the Wildcats trailing 54-53. They regained possession following a botched Stanford offensive set but didn’t convert at the end.
Stanford added to its single-season NCAA Tournament record total of successful 3-pointers by going 4-for-14 and giving it 59 for the six games. It missed all six second-half attempts.
The Wildcats chopped a 10-point, third-quarter deficit to 43-40 entering the fourth quarter. Stanford scored only two points in the last 5:34 of the quarter.
Stanford raced to a 14-3 lead, so it would be far different for Arizona. Two nights earlier, the Wildcats never trailed while upsetting Connecticut in the semifinals.
Arizona was within 31-24 at halftime despite shooting just 28.1 percent from the field. McDonald was 2-for-11.