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Peterson, Butler shine as Syracuse reaches 1st Final 4

The Syracuse Orange earned their first ever trip to the Final Four on Sunday, thanks to Alexis Peterson's 29 points in their 22-point win over Tennessee in Sioux Falls.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Sioux Falls, SD -- No. 4 Syracuse (29-7) became the second team to earn a trip to Indianapolis on Sunday, when they beat No. 7 Tennessee (22-14) 89-67 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

"You can't really put the words in order," said Alexis Peterson. "We're so fortunate, we're so blessed to be here [with only] four teams standing. To walk up that latter, you just think about everything you went through to get here. It's a great feeling."

The game started out deadlocked in the first quarter, with neither team able to pull away from the other. In the second quarter, though, the Orange turned up the heat. Syracuse went on a massive 19-5 run, hitting several deep shots in a row from three-point range. The Orange ended the half on a 21-9 run, leading 41-35 at the break.

"I just have to give the credit to my teammates and coaches," said guard Brianna Butler. "Without their confidence, setting me up and finding me, I wouldn't be able to hit those shots I've been able to. They helped us take the lead [and] take away Tennessee's chance of coming back. It was just a great experience."

Syracuse used its defense to spark that run, converting 12 points off of eight forced turnovers in the half. Alexis Peterson, who would be seen icing her hip while on the bench, led the way for Syracuse with 11 points, shooting 3-of-4 from behind the arc.

Syracuse started out the second half the same way as the first, holding on to their small lead. Tennessee's Diamond DeShields hit back to back three-pointers from nearly the same spot on the floor late in the third quarter, though, to bring the Lady Vols back within three points.  Syracuse extended their lead by the end of the third quarter, though, leading 63-56.

Syracuse wouldn't let the Lady Vols make a fourth quarter run. The Orange went on another huge 18-2 in the first half of the final quarter, putting them in complete control of the game with a 20-point lead.

Syracuse would ride out the lead through the rest of the game, giving them the 22-point win and their first Final Four berth in program history.

"It was just a great feeling, going up against a great team, taking that huge lead," Butler said. "For me, it was an almost unbelievable experience that we had a chance to advance to the Final Four."

Peterson led Syracuse with 29 points, four rebounds and six assists. Butler was right behind her with 18 points, all of which game from behind the three-point line. Cornelia Fondren also finished in double-figures with 13 points.

Deshields led the Lady Vols with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Jamie Nared and Bashaara Graves also finished in double figures, scoring 14 points and 11 points, respectively.

"We just did what we had to do," said Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman. "We knew we had to control the paint. We did a very good job of that. We knew we had to make threes. To be 14-of-30 [from behind] the arc, knocking down shots, making them come guard us was the key to the game."

Syracuse will take on No. 7 Washington in the Final Four in Indianapolis on Sunday.