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South Carolina, Stanford on collision course



You won’t find many fans complaining if South Carolina and Stanford advance to the NCAA women’s basketball final.

After one weekend of the tournament, that potential championship clash – which would be a rematch of a thrilling 2021 semifinal – remains a very real possibility.

South Carolina came into March Madness as the top-ranked team, but many are putting the defending champion Cardinal atop their power rankings after one weekend of the tournament.

Last year, Stanford edged South Carolina 66-65 in the semis before recording another one-point win – 54-53 – in the final against Arizona.

Here are some storylines to watch as we enter the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Cardinal flying high

Coach Tara VanDerveer’s Cardinal crushed their first two opponents – 78-37 against Montana State and 91-65 against Kansas – to extend their win streak to 22 games.

Now, they get a unique form of home-court advantage Friday against Maryland in Spokane, Wash.

Twins Lexie and Lacie Hull are Spokane natives. Lexie scored a career-high 36 points in the second round.

VanDerveer told USA Today that the Hull twins do “the dirty work” for her team.

Reigning tournament MVP Haley Jones and Cameron Brink are Stanford’s top scorers.

Boston bounce?

South Carolina star Aliyah Boston would like nothing more than a second shot at Stanford.

Boston’s putback at the buzzer last year rimmed out in the semis, allowing Stanford to escape with the victory.

This year, Boston is favoured to be named the NCAA player of the year.

The six-foot-four forward hasn’t quite been in top form in the first two games, putting up 10 points in each contest (she also averaged 14 rebounds).

South Carolina’s offence wasn’t great in a 49-33 win over Miami in the second round, but the team has allowed just 54 points in the first two games – a tournament record by 17 points.

Dawn Staley’s team faces North Carolina on Friday night in Greensboro, N.C.

Guess who’s back?

The UConn Huskies are making their 28th consecutive appearance in the Sweet 16.

But Geno Auriemma’s Huskies appear vulnerable.

UConn, seeded second in the Bridgeport Region, had a scare on home court in the second round, eventually prevailing 52-47 over Central Florida.

Reigning national player of the year Paige Bueckers hasn’t played at the same level after undergoing knee surgery.

Connecticut gets No. 3 Indiana on Saturday. If the Huskies win, a potential Elite 8 game against top-seeded North Carolina State awaits.

The underdogs

Traditionally, the women’s tournament hasn’t had as many upsets as the men’s event, but there have been some surprises this year.

Eight double-digit seeds won in the first round, tying for most in history, and two have advanced to the Sweet 16 – a pair of No. 10 seeds in South Dakota and Creighton.

South Dakota, in particular, has raised eyebrows with excellent defensive outings against top WNBA prospects in Shakira Austin of No. 7 seed Ole Miss and NyLyssa Smith of No. 2 Baylor.

The Coyotes play their first Sweet 16 game in program history on Saturday against No. 3 Michigan in Wichita, Kan.

Canadian content

Two of the three Canadians with the biggest roles on top contenders are in the Sweet 16 – Laeticia Amihere of South Carolina (Mississauga, Ont.) and Aaliyah Edwards of UConn (Kingston, Ont.).

Both have been relatively quiet in the tournament so far.

Arizona star Shaina Pellington of Pickering, Ont., saw her team eliminated in the second round after she scored 30 points in the opener.

All told, seven Canadians are in the Sweet 16. The other five are:

Latasha Latimore (Texas, Toronto)

Alyssa Jerome (Stanford, Toronto)

Izzi Zingaro (Iowa State, Bolton, Ont.)

Kiandra Browne (Indiana, Montreal)

Merissah Russell (Louisville, Ottawa)

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Chelsea 2-0 Manchester City: Fran Kirby and Maren Mjelde goals secure first points of WSL title defence



Kirby struck the opener in the 42nd minute and Mjelde added a spot-kick with 12 minutes of normal time remaining as Emma Hayes’ side bounced back from the shock 2-1 loss at Liverpool in their campaign opener last Sunday.

Gareth Taylor’s City created a number of chances, particularly in the first half, which included a Laura Coombs shot that Ann-Katrin Berger did superbly to divert against a post, but they were unable to save themselves from another loss following last weekend’s 4-3 reverse at Aston Villa.

After Chelsea threatened in the first few seconds of the contest, with Sam Kerr shooting wide, City exerted the greater pressure for much of the opening 45 minutes.

Chloe Kelly saw an attempt held by Berger – back in action for the first time since last month confirming a recurrence of thyroid cancer – and Khadija Shaw sent two efforts over the bar.

Berger subsequently palmed behind when Lauren Hemp tried to beat her at the near post in the 35th minute, before dealing with a deflected effort by Deyna Castellanos.

It was Chelsea who then grabbed the lead late in the half as Guro Reiten knocked the ball across the box to Kirby and the England playmaker, with Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman watching on from the stands, side-footed home.

Moments later Berger pulled off a fine stop as her leg sent Coombs’ shot against the post. And as City then pushed again early in the second half, Laia Aleixandri flicked wide from a corner and Coombs had another shot saved by Berger.

But the visitors struggled to create much thereafter, while Chelsea sought a second goal with Lauren James curling one shot wide and having another saved by Ellie Roebuck, and Kirby firing over.

Hayes’ team were then awarded a penalty when substitute Sophie Ingle’s strike hit the arm of Leila Ouahabi, and defender Mjelde calmly converted past Roebuck from 12 yards.

Additional reporting by PA.

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Super League Grand Final: St Helens’ Jonny Lomax comes back from the brink to write name in history | Rugby League News



Marc Bazeley


Jonny Lomax was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy for player of the match as St Helens clinched an historic fourth-straight Betfred Super League Grand Final triumph with a 24-12 win over Leeds Rhinos; The half-back had previously considered calling time on his playing days due to injury

Last Updated: 25/09/22 1:50pm

Jonny Lomax was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his part in helping St Helens to a fourth-straight Grand Final win

Jonny Lomax was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his part in helping St Helens to a fourth-straight Grand Final win

Seven years ago, Jonny Lomax was contemplating whether he would even play rugby league again. Now the St Helens half-back’s name is in the history books for his pivotal role in helping them to a previously unprecedented fourth-straight Betfred Super League Grand Final triumph.

Knee injuries and surgery which saw him restricted to 15 games in 2014 and only five at the start of the 2015 campaign had worn Lomax down to the extent he had told his father he was going to call time on his playing career as he could not see himself going through the long rehabilitation process again.

The support of his family and Saints team-mates helped get him through those tough times though, and now the 32-year-old is a four-time Grand Final winner and Harry Sunderland Trophy recipient for his starring role in Saturday’s 24-12 win over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford.

“If I do go back to 2014 and 2015 when I was going into my third ACL operation and the rest of it, I probably did think my career was done and I didn’t want to go through it all again,” Lomax said, reflecting on his personal journey in the wake of that success.

“Thankfully, I’ve got fantastic people around me at home and in my immediate family and the boys here.

“I’d decided in my head – probably purely on emotion because it was emotional at the time – that’s me, I’m done and can’t see a way back.

“There were a few things that happened speaking with my family that probably turned that around.”

Highlights of the Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

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Highlights of the Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

Highlights of the Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

Along with the members of the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association who voted Lomax as winning of the player of the match award, one other person who was effusive in his praise of the England international was St Helens’ departing head coach Kristian Woof.

The Australian, who is now preparing to lead Tonga at the upcoming Rugby League World Cup before returning home for his new role with NRL expansion club Dolphins, went as far as put Lomax’s contributions to the team’s success during his three seasons in charge alongside those of the club’s inspirational captain James Roby.

“You talk about hard work, selfless acts and what you’re prepared to do for your team-mates and it’s not just about turning up for a Grand Final and doing that,” Woolf said.

“A Grand Final is a reflection of what you do all the time and Robes leads from the front and this team is a reflection of him as a person and in terms of his work ethic and who he is as a player.

The award is nice, but it’s that trophy we’ve lifted as a team is what it’s all about for me. I’d sacrifice anything individually to be a part of this team and come away with the silverware because of the principles we’re about.

Grand Final player of the match Jonny Lomax

“But I’d put Jonny in the same boat, and you talk about two blokes who lead a group in the right direction and in all those things.

“There are no two harder workers, better people or more honest people and they are the reason why there is so much success in this team.”

Lomax, in turn, was quick to highlight Woolf’s contribution to a team which were already Grand Final winners under his predecessor Justin Holbrook and have gone on to establish a level of dominance in Super League hitherto unseen since rugby league’s switch to a summer sport in 1996.

A large part of that, he believes, is down to the 47-year-old’s beliefs aligning with those of the players and St Helens itself – those working-class values which became entrenched on the back of town’s growth as the centre of the glassmaking industry.

Jonny Lomax’s 2022 Grand Final statistics

Try assists 1
Metres made 155
Average metres gained 6
Tackle busts 5
Attacking kicks 9

“The principles Kristian is about as a person tie in very well with us,” Lomax said. “It’s about hard work, being honest and keep trying to show up for your mate and that togetherness.

“Kristian has instilled that into us, and he’s definitely made us tougher as a team to beat. It’s not always a perfect game, but one thing he has made us do is compete hard and keep showing up for each other.

“It’s probably instilled into us as well because St Helens is a working-class town, it’s the principles it is built on and that’s what we want to put onto the field, and that’s something Kristian has been strong in his belief in.”

That attitude of teamwork making the dream work will undoubtedly continue whoever succeeds Woolf as head coach for 2023, when Saints will be aiming for a barely imaginable five Grand Final wins in a row.

Jonny Lomax was proud of his St Helens team after they claimed their fourth Grand Final in a row after victory over Leeds Rhinos.

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Jonny Lomax was proud of his St Helens team after they claimed their fourth Grand Final in a row after victory over Leeds Rhinos.

Jonny Lomax was proud of his St Helens team after they claimed their fourth Grand Final in a row after victory over Leeds Rhinos.

And while Lomax was proud to have been awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy, becoming the 11th individual St Helens player to win it since it was first presented in 1965, he would gladly swap it for another Grand Final ring.

“The award is nice, but it’s that trophy we’ve lifted as a team is what it’s all about for me,” Lomax said.

“I’d sacrifice anything individually to be a part of this team and come away with the silverware because of the principles we’re about.

“For me, it’s more being proud of being part of this group and that’s the biggest thing I’ll take away.”

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D.J. Uiagalelei bailed out Clemson’s defense this time around



D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 371 yards and five touchdowns in Clemson's 51-45 win over Wake Forest

D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns against Wake Forest
Image: Getty Images

Clemson fans finally got the game from D.J. Uiagalelei that they’ve been waiting for, finishing with 371 yards passing and five touchdowns. You’d figure that kind of day would lead to a blowout of No. 21 Wake Forest with the defense we’re accustomed to seeing from the Tigers. After two overtimes and more than 1,000 yards of total offense, the perennial conference champions held off the reigning kings of the ACC, 51-45.

Demon Deacon QB Sam Hartman tallied six touchdown passes, repeatedly hitting receivers for big plays — or pass-interference flags — up until the second overtime when the hopes of an upset were dashed on a fourth down heave to the endzone. Tiger cornerback Nate Wiggins, who was getting targeted all day, made the game-sealing pass breakup, and Dabo Swinney’s team escaped Winston-Salem with its winning streak — now at 10 — still intact.

As comforting as Uiagalelei’s performance was, the defense is just as concerning. The defensive front was without one of its best players, so they’re not at full strength. Yet they’ve shown some hints the past couple of weeks that they might be missing coordinator Brent Venables, and now those signs are blinking bright red.

I liked Wake Forest’s chances in Saturday’s game, but my questions were more about the quarterback. Clemson has allowed more than 40 points only five times in the past five-plus years. Notre Dame, LSU, Ohio State, and Pitt were responsible for the previous four, and now Wake Forest is on that list.

Outside of a one-play possession that ran out the final 14 seconds of the first half, Wake scored on five-straight drives from the second quarter to the fourth. Dave Clawson’s insistence on the run during the Deacs’ final chance at a score in regulation — Clemson’s only stop of the second half — was a weird strategy considering how hot Hartman was.

Saying Dabo out-coached him might not be accurate either as his equally hot offense wasn’t even given a chance to get within field goal range with 49 seconds left to try to win the game sans OT, and Wake hemorrhaging yards. (He also ran his kicker out for a 52-yarder to tie the game with four minutes left in the game, and his trust was rewarded as B.T. Potter drilled the kick.)

The day belonged to Uiagalelei though. This was the exact type of command and playmaking Clemson fans have been waiting for out of him, and it came in a high-pressure situation. The 371 yards passing is the second highest output of his career, and his first game with 300-plus yards since Nov. 7, 2020. The five passing scores are a career-high by three TDs.

He made plenty of tough throws, but the hardest came on a two-point conversion in the third quarter to tie the contest at 28. Under pressure, with a Deacon holding his leg, he found receiver Beaux Collins despite only having one foot on the ground.

Even though Wake’s defense leaves a lot to be desired — the fangless three-man rushes allowed Uiagalelei enough time to write a memoir — this was as perfect of a game as a quarterback can play.

No. 12 NC State and QB Devin Leary visit Death Valley next week, and if the Wolfpack can get by UConn, College Gameday could find itself with another orange-heavy destination. The Clemson defense will have another veteran quarterback to contain, but that can be said of both teams.

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