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Bulldogs to meet LSU in West region final

3/28/2004

SEATTLE (AP) -- Alexis Kendrick made her shot. Erika Valek missed
hers.

Kendrick swished a jumper with 5.4 seconds to play, lifting
Georgia to a 66-64 victory over Purdue in the West Regional
semifinals Saturday night.

"My shots weren't going in throughout the game, but I said,
'What the heck?' and I put it up," Kendrick said.

"She made something out of nothing on the baseline," Bulldogs
coach Andy Landers said.

Kendrick's basket capped a dramatic second half, but it wasn't
over until Valek, the Purdue point guard, slipped past a screen and
missed an open layup at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

"I just wanted to attack and try to get a basket," Valek said.
"It was wide open. It just slipped. I don't know. It just didn't
go in."

Janese Hardrick scored 17 points to help third-seeded Georgia
(25-9) advance to the regional final Monday night. It will be an
all-Southeastern Conference matchup against LSU (26-7), which beat
top-seeded Texas 71-55.

"Playing in the SEC allowed a lot of our younger players to
grow up," said Georgia's Christi Thomas, who had 14 points and 10
rebounds. "Our freshmen don't play like freshmen."

It was a heartbreaking end to a strong season for second-seeded
Purdue (29-4), leaving Valek in tears as her teammates tried to
console her on the floor. Nearby, Hardrick locked up a long hug
with teammate Ebony Felder.

"We're all hurting pretty bad right now, so I don't really have
much to say," Boilermakers coach Kristy Curry said.

"It was so close," Valek said. "I'd rather lose by 10 than
lose on a last-second shot like that. We were so close to the
overtime that we could taste it."

The Boilermakers seemed to have things locked up after Hardrick
was whistled for a technical foul for slapping the ball before it
came in on a Purdue inbounds play. Landers said he had just
challenged Hardrick to be more aggressive.

"We were too hard on her. She was a little lackadaisical and I
think I got her a little too wound up," he said.

Valek hit the free throws to put Purdue up 64-61 with 1:53 to
go. It could have been a four-point swing, but Shereka Wright
missed a shot after the Boilermakers retained possession.

"We were very confident," said Wright, who led Purdue with 13
points. "We only needed one more stop on defense."

The Bulldogs didn't panic.

Hardrick made up for the technical call by hitting a jumper to
pull Georgia to 64-61. After Purdue's Lindsey Hicks put up an air
ball at the other end, Hardrick hit a huge 3-pointer to tie it with
41 seconds on the clock.

On the Boilermakers' possession, Wright dropped to the floor as
she split two defenders. Her shot missed and no foul was called,
setting up Kendrick's jumper at the other end.

Purdue inbounded to Valek, who sped past Georgia's defenders and
headed straight for the basket. She had an open lane to the hoop,
but the ball sailed over the rim and bounced harmlessly off the
glass as the horn sounded.

"She's a great player," Hardrick said. "Sometimes when you
get so wide open, you just miss. I guess that's what it was."

The Bulldogs led 43-34 at halftime, aided by 12 points from
Thomas and a 10-0 advantage on second-chance points. Georgia had
eight offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

Purdue rallied, using a 22-10 run over the first 10 minutes of
the second half to tie it at 53 when Valek dribbled through two
defenders and hit a jumper. The Boilermakers led 56-53 after Hicks
made a 3-pointer seconds later.

"We had a brain cramp," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "We
didn't get our press offense set. We were mishandling balls and
turning balls over, which obviously isn't good."

There were three ties and four lead changes in the final 10
minutes.