A season ago, there was tragedy. This year, the season ends with a championship.
Baylor, the top overall seed of the women’s NCAA basketball tournament, has won its third national title, defeating No. 1 seed Notre Dame 82-81 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on Sunday. It’s Baylor’s first title since 2012, which also came against the Fighting Irish.
Baylor led by as many as 17, but after an injury to Bears star forward Lauren Cox, the Irish clawed back to take the lead with 3:09 left.
But Baylor regrouped, as Chloe Jackson, who led Baylor with 26 points in her final collegiate game, hit the dagger with 4 seconds to go. Arike Ogunbowale, the star in last year’s title game, was fouled with the Irish trailing by two with 1.9 seconds to go. But there were no heroics this time, as she missed her first free throw and made the second.
The three titles put Baylor and head coach Kim Mulkey behind only Geno Auriemma, who has 11 at Connecticut and the late Pat Summitt, who had eight at Tennessee.
The Bears (37-1) have won 29 consecutive games, last losing at Stanford in December.
Of Mulkey’s three titles, it’s the second time that Baylor head coach is sharing it with her daughter. In 2012, Baylor went 40-0 when Makenzie (Robertson) Fuller was a guard on that title team. She’s now in her fourth season on Mulkey’s staff, serving as associate director of basketball operations.
In November 2017, Fuller lost her unborn child, Scout Marie. The stillborn infant was delivered after doctors didn’t detect a heartbeat during a weekly checkup, according to CNN affiliate KWTX. Scout Marie was believed to have Turner’s syndrome, a condition that affects only females, in which one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that we had just a horrible year with the death of a grandchild, yet I don’t think as a family, I’m talking about Makenzie and myself, we had time to grieve,” Mulkey said after Baylor’s win against Oregon in the Final Four.
In October, Fuller gave birth to a son, Kannon, who Mulkey had with her on the dais after Friday’s win.
“You bet I’m going to hang onto him,” Mulkey said. “Holding a child up here is a heck of a lot more touching than holding one right here that’s deceased. I’ve done both in the last year and a half.”