Whether it was that gritty fourth-quarter resolve these Blue Demons have flourished on time and again this season or simply that Chante Stonewall decided it was time to impose her will on a heart-pounding BIG EAST tournament title game, the junior forward came through in heroic fashion.
With eight seconds left and DePaul trailing Marquette 73-71, coach Doug Bruno ran a pinch post with Stonewall having the option to beat Marquette's best defender Selena Lott one-on-one or kick it out to three-point threat Ashton Millender.
Judging by the determination written all over her face, there was only one option on her mind. Stonewall drove to the basket, caromed in a pretty bank shot and was fouled in the process. Her three-point play was the catharsis of a tension-filled fourth quarter in the Blue Demons' 74-73 victory over the Golden Eagles. It stretched DePaul's winning streak to 11 in a row.
There were still five seconds left and Marquette opted for BIG EAST Player of the Year Natisha Hiedeman to race up the court for a potential winning shot.
Except, there was Stonewall blocking the way. The Blue Demons' go-to defender used her quickness and length to make sure this night belonged to a boisterous partisan crowd that included DePaul President Dr. Gabriel Esteban and his wife, Jo.
When Hiedeman's attempt faded to the left without touching iron, Wintrust Arena experienced its first court storm.
"This is a moment you dream about as a little girl," said an emotional Stonewall who had tears in her eyes during a postgame interview with FS1. "It was a struggle for me the first two games of the tournament and these girls always had my back. It's not just one player, but a whole team."
No doubt Stonewall was referring to players such as Mart'e Grays (nine points, seven rebounds), Millender and Tanita Allen whose contributions Tuesday night and throughout the tournament paved the way for a repeat championship.
"Right after I made the free throw, I knew it wasn't over," Stonewall said.
Stonewall's clutch play at both ends of the court in the final seconds combined with a career-high 28 points that included a second career best with 11 field goals earned her the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award. Kelly Campbell and Grays were also named to the all-tournament team.
Freshman Lexi Held hit some clutch three-pointers when her team needed them the most and finished with 11 points. Campbell made huge contributions all over the court with nine points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
DePaul (26-7) repeated as BIG EAST champion and earned the NCAA tournament automatic berth---its 17th consecutive NCAA postseason appearance. It was their fourth conference tournament title in the last six years and came in a season when nothing came easy.
DePaul will await Monday's NCAA women's basketball selection show to find out its opponent in the NCAA Tournament First Round.