Arizona qualified for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for just the eighth time this season, the last coming in 2005.
The wait was worth it.
After struggling for years, the Wildcats went on a charmed run, culminating with Monday’s 66-53 victory over Indiana to reach the Final Four for the first time.
Trinity Baptiste, a former standout at Hillsborough, played a pivotal role in Arizona’s moment on the national stage. The senior forward finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Elite Eight victory.
She made bay area history, too.
Baptiste (featured photo of above courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics) is the first player from Hillsborough County and just the third ever from the area to play in the Women’s Final Four.
Dominique Redding, who starred at Clearwater, played at Tennessee and won a national title in 2007. She still is the only area player to be crowned a champion at the Division I level. The only other local to make a women’s Final Four is Lakewood’s Necole Tunsil, who started for Iowa when the Hawkeyes advanced in 1993.
It was a long road for Baptiste’s inclusion into that elite company among area players.
She started her college career at Northwest Florida State College before transferring to Virginia Tech. She played in every game for the Hokies during her sophomore and junior seasons, even earning ACC Sixth player of the year honors last season.
But she never made the NCAA tournament — until now.
The challenge is tough. On Friday, the Wildcats face Connecticut, which is making their 13th straight Final Four appearance.
No matter. This is why Baptiste transferred to Arizona as a senior.
Now she has a chance to cap her college career with a national title. .