11:30 PM ET, March 27, 2004
Bank of America Arena, Seattle, WA
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.
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