The storybook ending gets reversed for Notre Dame in the 2019 title game

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 07: Moon Ursin #12, DiDi Richards #2 and Kalani Brown #21 of the Baylor Lady Bears celebrate their 82-81 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to win the championship game of the 2019 NCAA Women's Final Four at Amalie Arena on April 07, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

TAMPA – The scenario seemed too perfect, and indeed it was.

For a second-straight year, Notre Dame found themselves in a position to finish out a championship run in dramatic fashion in the final seconds of the title game. Last season, Arike Ogunbowale gave the Irish a win against Mississippi State in the national championship game by hitting a three-pointer with under a second to go.

In 2019, Ogunbowale found herself with the ball in the closing seconds against Baylor, with Notre Dame down by two in the title contest at Amalie Arena. But the fates weren’t with or her team this time, in fact, the ending was quite the opposite.

After drawing a shooting foul on a drive to the basket with 1.9 seconds to play, Ogunbowale missed the first of two free throws, then unintentionally made the other when she tried to hit the rim in hopes of a tip-in bucket.

Instead of a dramatic ending for a repeat championship, Notre Dame watched as Baylor celebrate a national championship after an 82-81 victory.

It’s a bitter end to an otherwise outstanding season and another great game for Ogunbowale, who led the Irish with 31 points and helped them rally from as much as 14 down late in the third quarter to tie the game.

Yet the ending leaves tremendous disappointment in what is a complete reversal from the storybook ending of 2018.

“I mean, it’s tough. It’s tough,” said Ogunbowale of the ending, which was a surprise considering that she was an 80 percent free throw shooter this season. “You can’t really do anything about that one.”

That completed a game that followed a familiar script for the Irish in their previous tournament contests in which they fell behind only to finish strong. Kalani Brown’s hoop put Baylor up 62-48 late in the third, but the loss of star forward Lauren Cox to a knee injury slowed the Bears after that.

Notre Dame began to rally in the fourth behind Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey (21 points), and Jessica Shepard (11 points). Arike’s free throw with 3:18 left gave their Irish their first lead since the first two minutes of the game.

The teams went back on fourth until Chloe Jackson’s layup put Baylor up by two with six seconds to play. Ogunbowale got the ball and drove to the hoop on the next possession to draw the foul, but the first missed free throw and the made second one meant Notre Dame finished a point short this season.

“I think you’re always looking at that one thing you could have done differently to make the difference in the game,” said head coach Muffet McGraw. “Just disappointed about our start. I mean, that was really unfortunate. But knowing what this group has meant to us, it makes it tougher to lose this way.”

One in which it went the complete opposite direction at the end.



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