TAMPA, Fla. -- Arike Ogunbowale sat in a quiet Notre Dame locker room, and there were no tears from the senior. She patiently answered questions, even while some teammates cried around her after the Irish's 82-81 loss to Baylor on Sunday in the national championship game.
A year ago, Ogunbowale was the hero of the Women's Final Four, as she hit buzzer-beating, game-winning shots in the semifinal against UConn and the final against Mississippi State.
This year, she missed the first of two free throws with 1.9 seconds left and the Irish trailing 82-80. Ogunbowale, an 80.6 percent free throw shooter, had a chance to likely send the game to overtime. These would be almost automatic, right?
Fate had other ideas.
Ogunbowale missed the first free throw, as it bounced on the rim three times and fell off. Then she wanted to miss the second but didn't. The luck of the Irish wasn't with her this time, and Notre Dame lost its chance to repeat as champion
Her teammates and coach Muffet McGraw told her that it didn't come down to just that free throw; a lot of things led up to that.
"It just wasn't meant to be," said Ogunbowale, whose 31 points were the second-most in the national championship game and the most in a losing effort. "It's tough. It's going to be a hard pill to swallow. But things happen. I had a fun, great career here at Notre Dame. I won't let this define the whole four years."
Ogunbowale, who also had six rebounds, came up big in Friday's semifinal against UConn, finishing with a game-high 23 points. After Baylor's Chloe Jackson made what turned into the winning basket on Sunday, everyone knew the ball would go into Ogunbowale's hands for Notre Dame's last shot. It did, but things didn't end as expected.
"We always have that hope that we'll be able to pull it out," said Ogunbowale, whose 155 points in this NCAA tournament are the most by a player on a team that did not win the national title (and fourth-most overall). "We just didn't get stops when we needed to, and things didn't go our way this time.
"It's sad, especially being my last game. It's done for me here. I'm going to miss playing here."