- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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Danielle Adams talks about how she and fellow Kansas Citian Tyra White helped Texas A&M win the NCAA title.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Get on Interstate 70 here in Indiana's capital city and head west for eight hours. And then you are in Kansas City, Mo., where Texas A&M's Danielle Adams and Tyra White grew up.
"Wow, I think we were in sixth or seventh grade when we met," Adams said. "Her AAU coach asked me to play with them, and I did for one tournament. Ever since then, we've always been either playing with each other or against each other. That was the hype in Kansas City, when we'd go against each other, and everybody would come out and watch."
Their high school battles used to get nice-sized crowds. But Tuesday, the two were playing on the biggest stage in women's basketball: the national championship game. Before 17,473 fans at Conseco Fieldhouse and a national television audience, both Adams and White put on quite a show as the Aggies won the school's first NCAA basketball title with a 76-70 victory over Notre Dame.
The senior Adams had 30 points, the second-highest total ever in an NCAA women's final behind Sheryl Swoopes' 47 in 1993, and was named the Final Four's most outstanding player. White, a junior, had 18 points and hit the shot of the game, the same as she did when she scored 18 in Sunday's semifinal victory over Stanford.
Against the Cardinal, White's game winner with 3 seconds left was a layup, assisted by Sydney Colson, who'd gone coast-to-coast. Against the Irish, White hit a 3-pointer -- just Texas A&M's second of the game -- with 1 minute, 7 seconds remaining. It came off an inbounds pass from Colson with just 2 seconds left on the shot clock, after Notre Dame's Becca Bruszewski had blocked an Adams shot attempt out of bounds.
"I really didn't know the ball was coming to me. The play was designed for Danielle," said White, who then realized, when she saw Adams surrounded by green jerseys, that she would get the shot instead. "I really didn't think it was going to go in, but it did."
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of White's shot, "That was a knife right in my heart. I thought that was just an amazing play on White's part. It was an unbelievable shot. That was the game, that play right there."
But there were a lot of other plays that Adams had made earlier that had Texas A&M in position to get such a dagger by White. Adams had 22 of her 30 points in the second half, during which she made her first eight shots. As a team, the Aggies shot 68.2 percent from the field (15-of-22) after the break.
"I had a little voice in my head that said, 'Don't let this team down,'" Adams said. "And my teammates, every time we would get down, we would tell each other, 'We're not going to lose this game.'"
The Aggies (33-5) gained that confidence over the course of a season in which they lost to Big 12 rival Baylor three times -- but beat the Lady Bears in a fourth meeting at the Dallas Regional final. They knocked off another No. 1 seed, Stanford, here in the semifinals Sunday.
Tuesday, despite a fast start that had the Aggies up by as many as 13 points in the first half, Texas A&M found itself trailing by two at the break. The Aggies were trailing by seven just four minutes into the second half, and they were also dealing with foul trouble.
But Adams led the way back, working hard to get open and then doing the one thing that matters most in winning a championship game.
"Finishing well," Adams said. "And our defense had picked up. We just wanted to take it to them."
The Aggies definitely did that, but the Irish -- led by Skylar Diggins' 23 points -- scrapped and battled until the end, making this the best, most entertaining women's championship game since Maryland's overtime victory against Duke in 2006.
"She's a team player, a 'we' player," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said of Adams. "She's a special kid."
The interesting thing is, neither Adams nor White initially signed with Texas A&M out of high school. Adams, from Lee's Summit High, committed to Missouri, but then went to Jefferson Junior College. White, from Hickman Mills High, signed with LSU, but reopened her recruitment after coach Pokey Chatman was fired/resigned.
"I was a little discouraged," White said of how she felt about deciding to back away from LSU. "But after talking to my family, I found Texas A&M fit everything I was looking for."
However, White's career took one more detour when she suffered a torn ACL in the Aggies' first game of the 2007-08 season.
"I was going through a lot, being homesick and then hurting my knee," White said. "I called my mom every day. And when I got hurt, at first I couldn't even go upstairs, so Sydney Colson and Maryann Baker would have to help me. Having them and my other teammates there for support got me through that."
Adams was the junior college player of the year in 2009, but she needed to lose a considerable amount of weight before playing Division I ball for Texas A&M the next season. She did that, and with White helped lead the Aggies to the 2010 Big 12 tournament title. Getting bounced in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Gonzaga last year just made Texas A&M all the more determined this season.
And Tuesday, the "Kansas City connection" came through in the biggest game in program history.
"After I had to go to junior college, I knew it was a chance for me to work harder and get better," Adams said. "I thought, 'Maybe another team will pick me up that I really like.' And A&M gave me that chance."
Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com.
Behind star players Danielle Adams and Tyra White who took circuitous paths to College Station, Texas A&M outlasted Notre Dame for its first NCAA title.