SPOKANE, Wash. — California coach Lindsay Gottlieb was in elementary school the last time a West Coast women's basketball program not named Stanford reached the Final Four.
Gottlieb understood the drought and the difficulty in getting to the national semifinals. That's partly why the grin on her face was so wide Monday night when Cal finally snapped that 25-year streak, sending the Golden Bears to New Orleans for the Final Four.
"These kids are brought in," Gottlieb said. "So many things go into it and then you have to get a little lucky and then things have to go right, so I'm really conscious of this is special."
Layshia Clarendon scored 17 of her 25 points in the second half and overtime, and California rallied from 10 down with less than 7 minutes left to beat Georgia 65-62 in the Spokane Regional final, advancing to the national semifinals for the first time in school history.
Long Beach State in 1988 was the last team from the western part of the country other than Stanford to reach the Final Four. During that 25-year span, eight different programs in the West reached the regional finals. But whether it was Long Beach State, Washington, USC, UCLA, Colorado, Utah, Arizona State or Gonzaga, they all came up one game short of advancing — sometimes at the hands of Stanford.
Not these Golden Bears (32-3), who were picked by President Barack Obama to win the regional in his bracket.
"This is still better than my wildest dreams," Gottlieb said.
The loss ended Georgia coach Andy Landers' hope of reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1999. Georgia last reached the regional finals in 2004 and this was the Lady Bulldogs' 11th trip to the regional finals.
And it nearly became Landers' sixth Final Four.
"They made more plays than we did and they deserve to win the game," Landers said. "I'm disappointed, but I'm proud of our basketball team and the run that we have made."