by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM Again with the screaming kids.
There’ll be a five-figure crowd in the house thanks to the fact it’s the second straight 11 a.m. “Education Day” contest for which thousands of Guilford county students are bused in. And if past is prologue, most of them will be Tar Heel fans.
The teams met just once during the regular season, with the Jackets winning 56-54 on Feb. 12 at Carmichael Arena. Tech comes in on a five-game winning streak.
And the Jackets continue it — but just barely. It isn’t until Brittany Rountree’s 3-point attempt bounces off at the buzzer that Tech secures a 54-53 victory.
UNC jumps out to a 10-2 advantage, but Tech leads 31-25 at the end of a hard-fought first half behind 10 points from Tyaunna Marshall.
The Jackets shoot 42.3 percent for the period to 37.5 for UNC, which leads the rebound battle 19-15. The Tar Heels commit 16 turnovers in the first half to the Jackets’ 10.
Tech leads by as many as seven at 45-38, when Dawnn Maye hits a jumper with 10:24 left. But the Tar Heels keep coming, scoring nine straight points and going up 47-45 on a Tierra Ruffin-Pratt jumper with 6:33 remaining.
The Tar Heels lead by four following a She’la White layup that makes it 51-47 with 4:21 showing, but the Yellow Jackets take over with Marshall’s layup completing the scoring at 1:35.
Tech never loses the ball for 65 seconds until a missed Metra Walthour layup rolls out of bounds with six seconds to play. But the Jackets have three fouls to give, not allowing a shot until Rountree’s offering bounces away to end the game.
Marshall leads the Jackets — who beat the Tar Heels for the first time in six meetings in the tournament - with 21 points, followed by Walthour and Mo Bennett with 11 each.
White leads UNC with 13 points, followed by Ruffin-Pratt and Laura Broomfield with 12 each. Krista Gross hauls in 10 rebounds.
Tech shoots 38.5 percent to UNC’s 40.7. The Tar Heels win the rebound battle 35-31, but turn the ball over 20 times to Tech’s 15.
They said it …
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “One possession, one rebound, one foul — you know, one thing here or there and that would have made it a different story because I really felt like we were going to win this game. I’m proud of them for fighting hard and battling the way they did. We’re going to go back and practice and wait for the NCAA.”
Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph: “Obviously it wasn’t either of our teams’ best offensive performances of the year, but I felt like both teams were out there really getting after it on the defensive end. When it mattered down the stretch, it really felt like our time. … The thing that makes this win so special to me and to this program is that our senior class became the winningest class in the history of our program with that win.”
White: “I think we’re more focused now. We’re starting to come together as a team as a whole. I think playing Georgia Tech in this game will help us a lot, because they’re physical and that will help us a lot more looking toward the NCAA Tournament.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “I think in this tournament we started to come together as a team, and we’re playing some of our best basketball all season. It kind of helped us get better. Looking forward to the NCAA Tournament we’ve got to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time and one game at a time, and we’ll go from there.”
What does it all mean?
That the Yellow Jackets have a chance for some more tournament glory, while the Tar Heels will hope for no negative shocker from the NCAA selection committee.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Marshall’s layup for the game-winning points with 1:35 left.
UNC: Lost 1
Ga. Tech: Won 6.
UNC leads 51-17.
Georgia Tech vs. Duke or N.C. State, Saturday, 11 a.m.
UNC in NCAA Tournament in Chapel Hill, March 17.