Her South Carolina Gamecocks won their second national women’s NCAA championship, beating 11-time champ UConn 64-49 Sunday night, ending the Huskies’ undefeated streak in title games.
Destanni Henderson scored a career-high 26 points, Aliyah Boston added 11 points and 16 rebounds, and the Gamecocks handed Geno Auriemma’s Huskies their first loss in 12 NCAA title games. Beal — a 6’1″ junior guard and 2019 Rocky alum — scored two points with four rebounds.
With coach Dawn Staley calling the shots in a $5,000 letterman jacket, South Carolina took UConn to school on the boards and capped a wire-to-wire run as the No. 1 team in the country in The Associated Press poll, according to the South Carolina team website. The Gamecocks also won the championship in 2017 with A’ja Wilson leading the way.
This time it was Boston – the AP Player of the Year – and her fellow South Carolina post players who dominated on the game’s biggest stage. The Gamecocks outrebounded UConn by 49-24, including a 21-6 advantage on offensive boards. They also clamped down on star Paige Bueckers and the Huskies on defense, just like they did all season long.
Coach Staley became the first Black coach in Division I basketball history to earn a second championship.
“She trusts me. She believes in me,” Beal told Sports Illustrated in a daily cover story on Staley Monday. “And I believe in her and I trust her for putting me in a position to succeed and telling me what I’m best at.”
Brea helped make title game possible
It’s the little things that make Brea Beal special, according to a feature at justwomenssports.com.
“It’s the small action of taking two steps down the block to aid Aliyah Boston in a triple team. And the big commotion caused by blocking not one, but two Hailey Van Lith jump shots in the first quarter,” the piece said of her outstanding play April 1 against Louisville in the Final Four.
Against Louisville on Friday night, Beal made her mark in every way imaginable, finishing with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals to help the Gamecocks to a 72-59 win and a place in the national championship game Sunday.
“She’s so underestimated,” coach Dawn Staley said in the story. “She’s so unassuming. Her personality makes it easy for people to overlook her. Except the people who know what she does every single day.”
In her Gamecocks career so far, Beal has averaged six points per game and 5.2 rebounds.
At Rock Island, Chasson Randle graduated eight years before Beal and had a spectacular career with the Stanford Cardinal (class of 2015), finishing as the team’s all-time leading scorer, with 2,375 points. Beal in her first three years has 609 points for South Carolina.
At Rocky in January 2019, Beal became the all-time Western Big 6 Conference scoring leader for girls or boys early in the second half of a win against Moline, then winning their 37th straight conference game.
In her sophomore year at South Carolina, she led or tied for the team lead in rebounding four times – vs. Gonzaga (Nov. 29), at Alabama (Jan. 4), vs. Oregon St. (Mar. 23) and vs. Texas (Mar. 30), and made the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Now, Beal is part of a national champion.