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Ex-Liberty High star relives shot that beat No. 1 South Carolina

The main draw of the women’s NCAA Tournament hasn’t started, and Dre’una Edwards already has had her shining moment, per the iconic song usually used in reference to the men.

But how else to describe the 3-point shot from beyond the top of the key that capped one of the most dramatic and unexpected runs in recent memory, men or women?

“As soon as it left my hand, I knew it was going in,” the former Liberty High star said about sinking the basket that lifted upstart Kentucky to a 64-62 victory over No. 1-ranked South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game March 6 in Nashville, Tennessee.

That followed a victory over No. 18 Tennessee (and Edwards’ former Liberty teammate Rae Burrell) in the SEC semifinals.

And another over No. 6 Louisiana State in the quarterfinals.

And another over Mississippi State in the first round.

Four wins in four days, and six more before that to end the regular season.

It might have been the greatest stretch run witnessed in the Commonwealth since Secretariat overhauled Sham in the 1973 Kentucky Derby.

Next up is Princeton, the Wildcats’ first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday in Bloomington, Indiana.

Upon further review

After Edwards’ shot with 4.2 seconds to play swished through the net and South Carolina’s half-court heave clanged off the rim — “We were celebrating so much, if they would have just passed the ball in they would have probably gotten a better look,” Edwards said — seventh-seeded Kentucky snipped down the net for the first time in 40 years.

“Honestly, around 150 times,” the junior forward said after practice Tuesday about how many times she has seen the replay. “I watched the clip, I watched the (postgame) interview, I watched the whole game.

“It definitely has settled in.”

Maybe so, but it still seems hard to fathom given that on Feb. 10 the Wildcats were 9-11 overall and 2-8 in the SEC. After starting the season ranked No. 15, their NCAA Tournament hopes lay scattered in the bluegrass for which their state is known.

“It was difficult for everybody. But personally, I just felt like I disappointed a lot of people,” Edwards said about being suspended for a game in December for academics and four in January for disciplinary reasons.

“I just had to overcome everything and be positive for my teammates because we were all in a funk at that point. It was like there was something going around, an emotional bug or something.”

More to accomplish

With Edwards, who is averaging 16.9 points on 52 percent shooting and a team-high 8.2 rebounds, and leading scorer Rhyne Howard (20.6 ppg) having ironed out differences with coach Kyra Elzy, Kentucky has been a different team. Or at least the same one that had started the season with such high aspirations.

Elzy and Edwards, who transferred to Kentucky after being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in her one season at Utah, patched things up long before the former drew up the play that will provide the latter with her place in Kentucky basketball history.

“It was great having Dre back,” Elzy told reporters after reinstating Edwards before a 78-69 loss to LSU on Jan. 30, during which Kentucky played better. “Obviously she makes us different on both ends of the floor with her ability to stretch the defense with the pick and pop.”

After losing 59-50 to South Carolina on Feb. 10, Kentucky caught fire in what is the nation’s premier conference for women’s basketball. The Wildcats won 10 straight SEC games and rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit in their stunning victory over the nation’s best team in the tournament final.

As Edwards repeatedly said during an emotional postgame interview, the Wildcats aren’t done picking and popping and busting brackets despite entering the big tournament as a modest No. 6 seed.

“We still have a lot to accomplish because there are still people out there thinking all these games were a fluke,” she said about making moments shine when the Ides of March yield to the Madness of March and one least expects it.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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