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Wayne grad seeks second national title in three seasons at South Carolina

Apr. 4—Each player on the South Carolina roster received six tickets for the Final Four. Lashauna and Bryan Hall, whose daughter Bree plays for the nation's No. 1 team, had the job of distributing her tickets this week for the games in Cleveland.

LaShauna and Bryan took two. Bree's sister Brooklyn, a class of 2026 recruit who attends Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, south of Cleveland, received one. Bree's boyfriend received one. The other two went to Bryan's cousin and the mother of former South Carolina star Aliyah Boston.

Those tickets are more valuable this year than ever. Bree Hall, a 2021 Wayne High School graduate who's now a junior guard at South Carolina, will get to play in the Final Four for the third time in three seasons — this time in her home state.

South Carolina (36-0) plays North Carolina State (31-6) at 7 p.m. Friday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

"It's special," Bryan said. "We got we got to watch her when they came to Bowling Green, but this one is a lot bigger. This means a whole lot more."

South Carolina won 93-62 at Bowling Green in December. Hall scored 18 points in that game.

The Gamecocks didn't lose before that game and haven't lost since. South Carolina is 36-0 entering the Final Four for the second straight season. The road to Cleveland included one close game in the NCAA tournament, a 79-75 victory against Indiana in the Sweet 16 on Friday. After that game, Bree answered a question about the team's poise under pressure.

"Honestly, I think it's really just our determination and our motivation," she said. "We don't want to lose. We want all the same goal, and we just love each other so much and are so confident in each other. I think it's just kind of having that determination out there on the court, not really getting too shaken by the moment."

This season, Hall is averaging a career-best 9.5 points per game. She also has set career highs in field-goal percentage (44.3) and 3-point percentage (38.7). She has started 35 games.

"I think it's amazing," LaShauna said. "I think she is setting out to do exactly what she said that she wants to do. She said she wanted to be on a great team. She wanted to be coached by the best. And she's doing that. It has taken some time. She's been OK with that, just kind of waiting her turn. I think that early this season she struggled a bit knowing that she was going to have a lot more responsibility that she hadn't had to deal with in past years. So she had that hiccup, but she seems to have gotten over that hurdle."

South Carolina lost all five starters and four of its top five scorers from last season, including Boston, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. The Gamecocks still returned to the Final Four for the sixth time in coach Dawn Staley's 16 season.

"This one feels different just because this team is just something different," Bree told Yahoo Sports this week. "Nobody expected us to be here. Our preseason ranking was No. 6. Nobody had been talking about us like that."

Hall did not play in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Presbyterian because of an injury. She averaged 7.3 points in victories against North Carolina, Indiana and Oregon State.

"She has gone from being shy about taking shots," Bryan said, "to being comfortable with hitting the 3 or the pull-up or getting to the basket — whatever the team needs her to do."

Hall committed to South Carolina in May of 2020. At the time, she ranked 26th in the class of 2021 and 10th among guards, according to the HoopGurlz rankings. She picked South Carolina from a group that included Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio State, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Texas.

Hall appeared in 36 games as a freshman, averaging 2.7 points in 9.3 minutes per game. South Carolina finished 35-2 that season and beat Connecticut 64-49 in the national championship game.

Last season, Hall appeared in 35 games. She averaged 5.0 points and 13.9 minutes. South Carolina finished 36-1, losing only to Iowa, 77-73 in the Final Four.

This week, South Carolina finds itself in a Final Four with familiar opponents. The other Final Four matchup Friday includes Iowa and Connecticut, the teams South Carolina has played in the championship game the last two seasons.

The semifinal winners will play for the national championship at 3 p.m. Sunday in Cleveland. The Halls traveled to Albany, N.Y., for the previous two games and hope for an extended stay in Cleveland. They head north on Thursday.

"All of them have been special," Bryan said, "especially the first one. You never get tired of it. In the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, we were on the edge of our seats with our fingers crossed that we would get back there and have another shot."

FRIDAY'S GAMES

N.C. State vs. South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN

UConn vs. Iowa, 9 p.m., ESPN