Stanford needed Ashten Prechtel’s offense to advance to Final Four, and her defense helped the Cardinal get to Sunday’s national championship game.
“This season we’ve had a lot of great people stepping up,” Prechtel said Saturday during a press conference. “So I just wanted to be ready when my name was called.”
Now, it seems like the Discovery Canyon graduate will do whatever’s necessary to help Stanford beat Arizona and claim a little slice of college basketball glory.
“Going into every season, the main goal is to win a national championship, so having the opportunity to play in that game is huge,” Prechtel said. “I think we’re all super excited to be here, and we’re ready for tomorrow. We’re ready to win it.”
The Cardinal likely would not be in a position to win the program’s third national championship if not for Prechtel’s 16 second-half points against Louisville on Tuesday or her late steal in a one-point win over South Carolina on Friday.
“We’re really fortunate to have been able to pull out a win,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said Saturday. “I thought our combination of Ashten and Cam (Brink) together really was the difference for us. They played really well defensively. They rebounded, scored for us.”
Prechtel finished with nine points, making 3 of 5 shots from the field, eight rebounds, two blocks and one assist in 24 minutes of playing time against the Gamecocks, but no play was bigger than her lone steal.
After Haley Jones gave Stanford a 66-65 lead on a jumper with 32 seconds left, South Carolina called timeout. The Gamecocks inbounded directly to Aliyah Boston, Prechtel’s defensive assignment, in the post. Boston used a strong post move to get her shot off before the 6-foot-4 Brink slid over and came up with a block. Boston got to the loose ball, appearing to give South Carolina a second shot to go ahead late. When Destanni Henderson tried to get the ball back to Boston later in the possession, Prechtel jumped the pass, reached out her right arm and stole it cleanly. South Carolina would get a couple of more looks after a late Stanford turnover but failed to connect.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty,” VanDerveer said. “I’m really proud of our team for making the plays down the stretch that we had to make. The steal by Ashten Prechtel was huge. Cam getting out on a run and getting a break. Lexie (Hull) sprinting back, and, you know, just being there so the girl didn’t have an open layup.”
While it’s too early to say what Stanford might need from its 6-foot-5 sophomore forward with 3-point range against Arizona on Sunday, she knows where she’s headed once she’s out of the tournament bubble, hopefully as an NCAA champion.
“There’s a ton of things,” Prechtel answered when asked what she was most looking forward to with increased freedom. “But I think the main thing is I’ll be able to go home for a little bit of time, which will be nice to see my family.”