STANFORD, Calif. — North Carolina is one win away from a trip to the Final Four.
The No. 4-seeded Tar Heels knocked off top seed South Carolina 65-58 Sunday to reach the Stanford Region final. North Carolina (26-9) will play No. 2 seed and host Stanford (32-3) at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
We played a great South Carolina team, North Carolina associate head coach Andrew Calder said. Theyre very talented, but we battled hard.
The Tar Heels had a major scare less than three minutes into the game when star freshman guard Diamond DeShields went down on the Maples Pavilion hardwood with a sprained ankle. She was helped off the court and received attention in the locker room but returned at the 13-minute, 33-second mark of the first half.
DeShields hit a 16-footer, a tough lean-in shot, then scored on an inbounds play to put the Tar Heels ahead 15-8. DeShields, daughter of former pro baseball player Delino DeShields, finished with 19 points, playing 32 minutes.
I didnt hold the team back with my injury, she said. The coach trusted me and gave me a chance.
Diamond DeShields is definitely an All-American, Calder said. Shes a competitor and you cant hold her back. Shell be out there on Tuesday.
The Gamecocks (29-4) had trouble putting the ball in the basket during the first half, shooting 33 percent from the field, 37 percent for the game. The Tar Heels led 29-21 at the half but were ahead as much as 27-15 after Latifah Coleman sank a 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down.
South Carolina pecked away for much of the second half, closing to 35-32 on a follow shot by Alaina Coates, who had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.
North Carolinas Jessica Washington delivered a nice pass to DeShields, who scored for a 39-32 Tar Heels lead.
The game tightened, but a 3-pointer by Washington put the Tar Heels ahead 46-42 with 7 minutes, 35 seconds to play. Stephanie Mavunga scored one of the biggest baskets of the game when she got a layin to go with 2:40 left, while drawing the foul. Mavunga made the free throw for a 59-51 lead. Mavungas play was critical as she finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Brittany Rountree made three of four free throws late to help salt away the game.
We wanted to have the ball in her hands, Calder said of Rountree. She helped beat Maryland with some free throws in a game. We wanted to get the ball to Brittany.
Coleman had nine points and Danielle Butts eight for the Tar Heels, who are trying to reach their first Final Four since 2007.
Next up is Stanford.
Our coaches will have a good scouting report on Stanford, Mavunga said. I have to go out and play with a good mentality. I have confidence in our coaches.