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Augustus, Johnson team up for Lady Tigers

3/30/2004

SEATTLE (AP) -- The only thing Sue Gunter missed over the
telephone was being able to cut down the nets.

Seimone Augustus scored 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting and
gritty point guard Temeka Johnson added 16, leading LSU to its
first Final Four with a 62-60 win over SEC rival Georgia on Monday
night in the West Regional.

Mon., March 29
LSU-Georgia was a matchup of a lot of kids who can make big plays. So
what it came down to was a time element -- who made the last "big play'' before time ran out? It turned out to be LSU.

It's such a neat story. LSU was devastated last season, losing as a No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight. And the team certainly didn't get much attention this season except about how the players and staff were dealing with Sue Gunter's illness. But the Lady Tigers peaked at the right time, and give the Final Four an unexpected "home" team.


"We are a part of history," Augustus said. "We gave coach
Gunter her first Final Four and one for Pokey Chatman, too."

Chatman, of course, is the former LSU point guard who has served
as acting coach the past two months, when Gunter watched games on
television from her home because of acute bronchitis.

In the postgame celebration, Chatman dialed up the head coach.

"I spoke to her about 10 minutes after the game," Chatman
said. "She was so excited, we could barely talk to each other. We
were screaming, hugging, and kids were crying, trying to get the
telephone."

The Lady Tigers (27-7) will make about an hour drive from their
campus to play in New Orleans. They'll meet the winner of Tuesday's
Midwest Regional final between Stanford and Tennessee.

"It was a dream to have people fighting over tickets," said
Johnson, who grew up in New Orleans. "We're waiting to see how
we're going to come up with a plan for turning people away."

It was a close contest, but fourth-seeded LSU pulled away with
an 8-1 run in the final three minutes. Johnson hit two jumpers in
the decisive spurt, and Augustus got the last point by hitting a
free throw with 8.8 seconds to go.

"When it came down to clutch time, we were able to execute like
we didn't execute in the first half," Chatman said.

Gunter's team will finally go to the Final Four in her 40th
season of coaching. She hasn't been with the team for the past two
months, staying home with acute bronchitis.

"I truly believe that it means more to everyone around coach
Gunter than it does to coach Gunter," Chatman said. "She says all
the time that her career wouldn't be any less fulfilling if she
didn't get there. That only makes you want to get there even more
for her."

Gunter is expected to make the trip to New Orleans, but she'll
probably sit in the stands or remain at the team hotel.

"We haven't had time to talk about it," Chatman said.

Christi Thomas had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Georgia, but
she missed four of five free throws in the final five minutes.
Coming into this one, she was 19-for-19 from the line in the SEC
and NCAA tournaments.

"We just couldn't get it done," Thomas said. "Over the course
of the game, one team makes a run and the other team fights back.
That's what happened. It went back and forth all day."

Janese Hardrick added 18 points, and the third-seeded Lady
Bulldogs (25-10) had a chance to win it in the closing seconds.

Hardrick brought the ball downcourt, but there was contact with
Johnson. No foul was called, and Hardrick skidded to her knees and
lost control of the ball.

"I was just trying to come down and score," Hardrick said.
"If they collapsed, I'd dish. But I lost my footing."

The horn went off as players scrambled, and LSU had the win
safely in hand. The Lady Tigers rushed off the bench in a wild
celebration, and Johnson raced to the sideline to find Chatman for
a long hug.

Augustus, selected the Most Outstanding Player in the regional,
also had eight rebounds and two blocked shots. In the regional
semifinal win over Texas, she scored 29 points on 14-of-19
shooting.

"It just happened," Augustus said. "Our team really wasn't
executing well. Our offense didn't have the spacing we wanted. But
the shots showed for me. I just put them down."

Georgia had its biggest lead at 54-47 with 6:53 remaining after
Sherill Baker, who was 0-for-7 at that point, swished a 3-pointer.

LSU charged back, getting a 3-pointer from Augustus, an inside
basket from Treynell Clavelle and a jumper by Augustus to trim the
margin to two at 56-54 with 4:37 to play, but Hardrick hit another
3-pointer to extend Georgia's lead.

Doneeka Hodges completed a three-point play, putting the ball
back and getting fouled after she missed an open layup on the
break. It was a huge momentum swing, pulling LSU to 59-57.

Johnson tied it moments later, hitting a 16-footer from the left
wing with 1:54 to play. She finished 8-for-15.

Though Gunter hasn't been with the team for games, she attended
practices and film sessions, and she called Chatman to talk
strategy. She went to Nashville for the SEC tourney, but watched on
TV from the hotel.

"Sure, I'm happy for her," Georgia coach Andy Landers said.
"I'm not as happy for her as I am disappointed for us."

Georgia, which beat LSU 80-74 on Jan. 25 at Athens, Ga., was
seeking its sixth Final Four but first in five years.