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USF advances to WNIT Championship

USF has entered unfamiliar territory: a postseason championship game.

The Bulls (26-10) advanced to the program’s first WNIT finals Wednesday night after a strong second half at the Conte Forum, defeating Boston College (23-12) 82-65.

With the win, the Bulls advance to the WNIT championship game at Kansas on Saturday at 2 p.m.

USF trailed 32-28 at halftime but slowly picked away at the Eagles’ lead, and a three-point shot from junior Janae Stokes gave the Bulls a 42-39 lead with 15:32 remaining. The Bulls then took control on defense and held BC scoreless for six minutes.

Stokes finished with 22 points, including five three-point shots to lead the Bulls.

“(Stokes) is having family issues right now — her mom is in the hospital,” Lawson said. “I think it says a lot about her that she came out ready to play. That’s who she is.”

USF took an early 7-3 lead, but the Eagles stuck close, with a layup by Jasmine Gill giving Boston College the halftime advantage. Lawson, who had five points in the game, said the Bulls came out nervous.

“We were a little excited with the atmosphere and all that,” Lawson said. “We were getting good shots, but they just weren’t falling.”

The Bulls finished 44 percent from the field, forcing 15 turnovers.

“We took care of the ball,” said USF coach Jose Fernandez. “I couldn’t be prouder of
these guys.”

USF is on its longest postseason run in program history, with wins over Florida Gulf Coast, Mississippi and St. Bonaventure en route to the championship game.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet — it’s still surreal,” Lawson said. “I can’t believe we’re here.”

Seven seniors will play their last game Saturday, and Lawson said she wants to win USF’s first postseason championship.

“I feel like we can do anything when we put our mind to it,” Lawson said. “Once we have a common goal, nobody can break us.”