Haley Jones, Fran Belibi and Aliyah Boston text one another every day. They’ve traveled the world together. They’ve won a world championship together. They are, in Jones’ words, “best friends.”
But on Friday night, they were on opposite ends of one of the most dramatic Final Four finishes ever.
Stanford led South Carolina by one point with 8.9 seconds left. Jones, a Stanford sophomore, inbounded the ball. A teammate turned it over. The Gamecocks raced the other way.
Boston, a South Carolina sophomore, rebounded a missed layup, and had one shot at a buzzer-beating winner.
She back-rimmed it.
Jones ran back toward her bench, elated.
Boston sunk to the floor, distraught.
Jones and her teammates celebrated, jubilantly.
Boston sobbed, uncontrollably.
But before long, Jones saw her friend. She and Belibi, a Stanford bench player, went and found Boston. They fell into one another’s arms.
The three played together on USA Basketball youth teams, and won the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup together.
“Me, Fran and Aliyah, we’re best friends, we text every day, we talk all the time,” Jones said after the game. “We love competing against each other. I think us being so close really boosted our competitiveness against each other.”
On Friday, both Boston and Jones starred. Boston finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. Jones had 24 points, and hit the game-winning jumper.
But mere seconds after the final horn, “we saw her feeling it, just as we would be,” Jones said of Boston. “So we wanted to just go give our friend a hug.”
As they embraced, Jones said, Boston wished them luck.
Her message for her Stanford buddies, looking ahead to Sunday’s national title matchup with either UConn or Arizona: “Go get it.”
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