UConn junior Bria Hartley and Kentucky red-shirt sophomore Jennifer O’Neill were AAU teammates for Exodus in New York. They remain good friends.
Tonight in the NCAA Bridgeport regional final at Webster Bank Arena, however, their friendship will be placed on hold for 40 minutes as the top-seeded Huskies and second-seeded Wildcats meet for a spot in the Final Four for the second straight season.
O’Neill did not play in last season’s regional final in Kingston, R.I. due to a stress fracture in her right foot. UConn prevailed 80-65.
“I have a really good relationship with her, especially my last couple years in high school because we spent so much time together,’’ Hartley said. “It’s kind of cool going out there (tonight). I kind of look at it like this is both like our dream growing up. Me and her kind of share the same thing. We wanted to go and play in college and everything. So it’s kind of cool to go out there and play against one another, but at the same time we both have a goal. We both want to win. So I think we’re going to go out there and be competitive. And we probably won’t talk to each other until the game’s decided at the end.’’
The Huskies are looking to set an NCAA record with their sixth straight trip to the Final Four. Kentucky is looking to secure its first trip.