No player was more dominant Wednesday than Oregon Ducks center Sedona Prince.
The 6'7" Texas native scored 22 points and added four blocked shots in Oregon's 57-50 win over third-seeded Georgia to advance to the Sweet 16.
"It makes me... wanna cry," explained Prince when asked how it felt to make the Sweet 16 in her first season playing college basketball.
"I [have] watched since fourth grade, people playing basketball and celebrating these kinds of moments,” said Prince. “In March, how amazing it is to see.”
Now the 20-year old center got to experience that feeling after the game of her life.
"It felt really good. It was a really fun game,” she added.
In the commercial timeout heading into the fourth quarter, Sedona said she told Nyara Sabally, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, they were going to the Sweet 16. The pair ended up scoring Oregon’s first 14 points of the final period.
“I thought the synergy between her and Nyara was really good tonight in that high-low game,” said head coach Kelly Graves.
As soon as the final buzzer sounded, Prince hugged Nyara. Them two had been through a lot together.
"I saw video of us hugging after the game and that describes us and what we have been through.”
Both players sat on the bench last season watching Oregon have one of the nation’s best teams. Both of them wanted to contribute but could not due to Sabally’s second ACL tear and Prince being ruled ineligible due to NCAA transfer rules.
“When I came here we both were so broken,” Prince explained. “We didn't know if we were going to play basketball again.”
Sedona spent her first season of college basketball as a Texas Longhorn, recovering from a broken leg. After the season, she decided to transfer to Oregon in search of a place she could become whole again, physically and emotionally.
“When I transferred, I was looking for a new home for happiness, for someone to take me with open arms and love me again, and that's what I found.”
When the NCAA disallowed her joining her teammates on the floor last season, despite her being healthy, it took a toll on her emotionally.
“"Last year when I wasn't able to play, it knocked me down pretty hard.
“I was lucky we had such an amazing team last year, they were able to lift me up and made sure I knew I was a part of the team. Come out and practice against Sabrina and Ruthy and Satou every day.”
All that practice has paid off.
Prince said she has never felt better on the court than she did Wednesday. Her teammates all believed in her and gave her the strength to become the best version of herself she can be. What she sought when entering the transfer portal, she found in Eugene.
She has made a positive impact on everyone within the Ducks program, too.
“How blessed am I to be coaching a young woman like her?” said Graves.
“She is really the whole package. Not only a tremendous player but just think of the pressure she's had on her being so outspoken. She's had a lot of attention placed on her and she has backed it up. That's not easy to do.”
After a week of making national headlines for spearheading women’s basketball’s fight for equality in treatment from the NCAA, Prince knew there would be extra attention on her.
In the tournament-opening win over South Dakota, Prince said she was nervous and she did not play her best: 12 points and seven rebounds while fouling out. It was a decent outing, but she was capable of so much more.
Wednesday, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line, Prince showed why Graves said she has the promise of a first-round pick. The duo of her and Sabally delivered on the largest stage of their careers.
“Watching where we've come and now leading this team to the Sweet 16 is incredible," said Prince, wiping away a tear.
"I'm so proud of her because it's been so difficult for the both of us and she has powered through so hard… She is such a fun player to play with and I just love her so much.”
To make it even better, her teammates weren’t the only loved ones in attendance. Prince explained part of the difficulty playing during a pandemic has been the lack of family in attendance.
That was not the case in San Antonio.
"My parents were in the stands today," said Prince. "Playing in my home state in a gym that I played in, in high school, is so amazing and now being able to go to the Sweet 16 and experience even more of this is going to be amazing.”
Sedona and the Oregon Ducks will play No. 2 Louisville in the Sweet 16 on Sunday, March 28th at 4:00 p.m. PT on ESPN.