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San Antonio Woman On Stanford's Team Favored To Win It All At NCAA Tournament

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
The Alamodome in San Antonio hosted the women's NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in March 2021.

Teams are getting in their last practices before Friday's Final Four action in the final weekend of the Women's NCAA Basketball tournament at the Alamodome.

Friday's games pit Stanford against South Carolina, followed by Arizona versus UConn. Winners advance to Sunday's national championship game. All the games begin at 5 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN.

The Stanford University Cardinals remain the favorite to win it all.

Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer, who has the most wins in women's college basketball history, is seeking her third national championship.

She said to beat South Carolina on Friday night, the team must step up their play in a couple of areas.

"We have to rebound, they're a team that out-rebounds their opponents by 15," VanDerveer said. "And if our team, you know, is not going to be on the glass we'll be coming home Saturday morning. We must rebound. I think another thing with them is that you've got to limit turnovers because they really get out and run and transition,"

She said the team enjoys the support from fans in the dome, even though seats for the games are limited to 4,800 because of the pandemic.

"I think our players are ecstatic that family and friends are able to come to the games. For me, I don't hear it at all, so I know that with the television they are showing our fans, which is great," VanDerveer said.

Some of that cheering for Stanford is coming from family and friends of senior guard Kiana Williams who played for San Antonio's own Karen Wagner High School. Some have traveled in from Alabama.

Stanford senior guard, Kiana Williams, is from San Antonio and attended Karen Wagner High School.

"I tried to hog as many tickets as I could. I feel like there a lot of people that I would not even know that are at the game supporting me," Williams said.

Williams' high school team played in state tournaments in 2014 and 2015, but did not come away with a crown.

She said she has enjoyed the return to her hometown, where she has fond memories of playing basketball at the Copernicus Community Center on the East Side and being coached in a Spurs youth league by her dad, Michael.

The Stanford team has spent some time on the River Walk and has gone on a river barge ride, but outings have been limited because of the pandemic, Williams said. To fill some of the downtime at their hotel, Williams organized a ping pong tournament for her team, but was quickly eliminated.

One thing was definitely on Williams' to-do list back in her hometown.

"I for sure had to get my Whataburger. That was the first thing I think I ate when we got back. I had to DoorDash some Whataburger," she said.

Looking ahead against South Carolina and a possible appearance in a national championship game, Williams said she is following the advice of her head coach.

"One game at a time. She just wants us to go out there and compete for 40 minutes and if we do that I think we'll be more than capable of playing for the championship on Sunday," she said.

Also appearing for Stanford is defender Anna Wilson, the younger sister of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

This weekend's action also includes the first time two black women coaches have appeared in a final four, Dawn Staley of South Carolina and Adia Barnes of Arizona.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian