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College basketball

Women: LSU gets its first Final Four

By Wire services
Published March 30, 2004

SEATTLE - The only thing Sue Gunter missed over the telephone was being able to cut down the nets.

Seimone Augustus scored 29 on 12-of-19 shooting, and gritty point guard Temeka Johnson added 16, leading LSU to its first Final Four with a 62-60 win over SEC rival Georgia on Monday night in the West Region final.

"We are a part of history," Augustus said. "We gave Coach Gunter her first Final Four and one for Pokey Chatman, too."

Chatman is the former LSU point guard who has served as acting coach the past two months, when Gunter watched games on television from her home because of acute bronchitis.

In the postgame celebration, Chatman dialed up the coach: "I spoke to her about 10 minutes after the game. She was so excited, we could barely talk to each other. We were screaming, hugging, and kids were crying, trying to get the telephone."

The Tigers (27-7) will make about an hour drive from their campus to play in New Orleans. They meet the winner of tonight's Midwest Region final between Stanford and Tennessee.

"It was a dream to have people fighting over tickets," said Johnson, who grew up in New Orleans. "We're waiting to see how we're going to come up with a plan for turning people away."

Gunter's team will finally go to the Final Four in her 40th season of coaching. She hasn't been with the team for two months. She was expected to make the trip to New Orleans, but she'll probably sit in the stands or remain at the hotel.

Christi Thomas had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Georgia, but she missed four of her five free throws in the final five minutes. Coming into this one, she was 19-for-19 from the line in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

Janese Hardrick added 18 points, and the third-seeded Bulldogs (25-10) had a chance to win it in the closing seconds.

Hardrick brought the ball downcourt, but there was contact with Johnson. No foul was called, and Hardrick skidded to her knees and lost control of the ball. "I was just trying to come down and score," she said. "If they collapsed, I'd dish. But I lost my footing."

The horn went off as players scrambled, and LSU had the win safely in hand. The Tigers rushed off the bench in a wild celebration, and Johnson raced to the sideline to find Chatman for a long hug.

[Last modified March 30, 2004, 01:35:43]


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