STANFORD -- As the North Carolina women's basketball team congregated in its locker room after being denied a trip to the Final Four by Stanford, associate head coach Andrew Calder broke down.
The Tar Heels' longtime assistant more comfortable with the X's and O's part of the game was unexpectedly thrust into an interim head coaching role when Hall of Famer Sylvia Hatchell began treatment for leukemia in October.
With Hatchell's illness in remission, she had been cleared by doctors to coach the Tar Heels in Nashville, Tenn., this weekend had her team advanced to the Final Four.
But two days after defeating No. 1 seeded South Carolina in the Sweet 16, youthful No. 4 UNC wasn't able to create a happy reunion with its recovering coach.
Calder took the loss hard. He fought back tears again while addressing the media.
"We had the talent to get to the Final Four, and I didn't get us there," Calder said as his star freshman, Diamond DeShields, comforted him. "For that I'm sorry."
DeShields said the Tar Heels' locker room was full of tears.
"As soon as you hear that little tremor in his voice, you hear everyone just begin to get emotional and really feel for him," DeShields said. "But it was a special moment, and it's something that I'll never forget. It was really important to see how much he cared."
The outcome may have been different for the Tar Heels if DeShields wasn't hobbled with knee and ankle injuries sustained in the regional semifinals two days earlier.
A game-time decision to play, the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and espnW's national freshman of the year started and played 39 minutes. She finished with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, below her team-high average of 18.1 points and her lowest output in more than a month.
"It was extremely painful in warm-ups," DeShields said, referring to an ankle she described as purple and stiff. "I was about to cry in warm-ups, but I refuse to make excuses for myself. I was just going to push through, block it out and ignore it."
DeShields got off to a slow start, picking up as many fouls as points in the first 13 minutes of the game (two). She had four points at halftime, though UNC led 36-30 thanks to Allisha Gray's hot shooting.
"They did a pretty good job on Diamond," Calder said. "But she was ... I'm not going to say injured because we're a no-excuse team, but Diamond just wasn't quite ..."
He didn't finish the sentence.
DeShields also gave credit to Stanford's Lili Thompson, who drew the defensive assignment despite standing six inches shorter than the 6-foot-1 UNC guard.
"Two back-to-back tough matchups, and she played like she's been here forever," Stanford's Mikaela Ruef said of the freshman from Mansfield, Texas.
Notre Dame's Kayla McBride and Maryland's Alyssa Thomas were also first-team selections.
Cal junior Brittany Boyd was named honorable mention.