Tears dry, Mississippi St guard still plays for late stepdad
DALLAS (AP) Morgan William figures the tears are finished flowing after dedicating a brilliant performance to her late stepfather when the Mississippi State women advanced to their first Final Four.
That doesn't mean the diminutive point guard has stopped playing for the man she credits with getting her involved in basketball when she was 3.
''I'm good now,'' William said Thursday, the eve of a national semifinal matchup with top-ranked UConn. ''I'm not going to say I forgot about it. I gotta be kind of businesslike, too. Just go play. So that's what I'm going to do.''
After scoring a career-high 41 points in a victory that spoiled Baylor's chance to play in the Final Four just 100 miles from its Waco campus, William crumbled in tears during a national TV interview. The 94-85 overtime win in Oklahoma City came a day after the third anniversary of Donnie Rory's death.
William did her best to try to explain all that.
''It just all hit me,'' said the 5-foot-5 junior from Birmingham, Alabama. ''I did not plan that. They started asking me questions, I was just like, `Dang it.' That was for him.''
The postgame scene in Oklahoma City wasn't the first time William cried on the court after her stepfather's death. Three years ago, she couldn't even practice, and considered quitting.
''I'm not a quitter, but it was during a tough time,'' said William, who averages 10.9 points and 4.6 assists per game. ''I couldn't go the gym for like a month. I'd go in there, try to dribble, do some drills. All I could think about was him and I'd just start crying.''
William says she knows what her stepdad would have said if she had quit - and she has an idea what he would be saying now.
''Cut all the social media, stuff like that, don't listen to the fans,'' William said. ''That's one game. You've got to go do it again.''
SPEAKING OF FAMILY: The Samuelson sisters - UConn's Katie Lou and Stanford's Karlie - will play in the same building after Jon Samuelson bounced between Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Lexington, Kentucky, to catch his daughters clinching their Final Four bids.
Dad had the good fortune of regional finals on different days, which also allowed Katie Lou Samuelson to watch the final minutes of Stanford's 76-75 win over Notre Dame between her obligations the day before the Huskies blew out Oregon to reach their 10th straight Final Four.
''It was horrible watching the game,'' said Katie Lou Samuelson, whose teammates huddled around her computer to watch. ''I actually felt like I was going to throw up and my legs were super wobbly. Even after they won, we went out to practice and my legs were still weak and I was like, `Oh great, now I'm going to have a bad practice.'''
Katie Lou Samuelson won't get to watch much of Stanford's game in the first Final Four with sisters on different teams. She'll be in final preparations with her team.
''It's going to be tough,'' said the younger Samuelson, one of two 20-point scorers for UConn along with Napheesa Collier. ''I was thinking about that.''
COACH'S DAUGHTER: Mississippi State guard Blair Schaefer was a freshman in high school when Texas A&M won the women's title in 2011 with her father, Vic Schaefer, as an assistant.
With Vic Schaefer in his fifth season as Bulldogs head coach, they're the first father-daughter combo in the Final Four.
''I think it helps me understand the importance of focus when you get here,'' said Blair Schaefer, a junior backup who has three of her six double-figure scoring games this season in the NCAA Tournament. ''There's a lot of things going on so it's easy to get sidetracked.''