by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM Wake Forest is hoping to be the Cinderella champion of this year’s ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, but tonight the journey gets tougher.
This time the opponent is No. 2 seed and defending champion Maryland (23-6), which is ranked No. 10 in the country.
The Terps won both regular-season meetings with Wake Forest, 73-63 on Feb. 8 at Joel Coliseum and then 88-61 on Sunday in College Park.
And this time it’s a classic.
Maryland ends up on the more fortunate end of things, blowing the Deacons away in the extra period of a 92-81 overtime victory.
The contest is tight throughout, with eight lead changes and eight ties — the last when Deacon senior Sandra Garcia hits a pair of clutch free throws with 5.4 seconds left in regulation to tie — before the Terps ring up the first 10 points of overtime.
Alyssa Thomas scores nine points in the extra period to cap an amazing individual effort. She hits a career-high 32 points with 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the first triple-double in the history of the tournament. Tianna Hawkins adds a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Chloe Pavlech chips in 14 points and Katie Rutan 13.
Chelsea Douglas leads the Deacons with her career high of 31, the most points ever scored by a Wake Forest player in an ACC Tournament game. Seniors Asia Williams (out of Durham Hillside) and Lakevia Boykin (Southeast Raleigh) add 19 and 17 points, respectively, while classmate Garcia pulls down 10 rebounds with her eight points.
Maryland shoots 50 percent for the game to 42 for the Deacons and wins the rebound battle 44-33. The Deacons
commit 14 turnovers to the winners’ 17.
They said it …
Maryland coach Brenda Frese: “It was just a tremendous game. Obviously neither team wanted to go home, and you can see what March Madness brings particularly in ACC Tournament play. We fought really hard, especially the second half. And obviously with (Thomas) I knew she wasn’t going to let us lose. What you see with her is what makes her the two-time player of the year. She can score the ball, lead and get assists and go to the glass. I’m proud of our effort. I thought we were really resilient in the overtime.”
Wake coach Jen Hoover: “What a pleasure to coach this group. There were ups and downs, but they believed in each other. They fought hard for each other and they fought hard for me. We came up just a possession short today. There was no doubt in my mind that this team believed. We’ve just got to be resilient and stay focused and build on that (next season). But it’s hard when you’ve got seniors sitting in the locker room knowing their careers are over and crying their eyes out.”
Thomas: “You’ve got to bring your best games in this tournament. We expect everybody to try to play their best. Credit to them. They played a really good game and challenged us tonight.”
Douglas: “I feel like we can play with anybody. It’s all about getting stops and rebounds. I knew if we did those two things we’d be right in the game. And I wasn’t feeling any fatigue at all.”
Williams: “We recognized we were in a great game tonight. We just tried to go out and win every four minutes. It was exciting for us to come out and make big shots and showed we could play with anyone. (Lakevia) and Chelsea both made some really big shots tonight.”
What does it all mean?
That every game in this season’s ACC Tournament has been competitive, and that Thomas knows how to put her team on her shoulders to win.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Hawkins’ three-point play from Thomas to make it 84-81 with 3:21 remaining in overtime.
Maryland: Won 2.
Wake: Lost 1.
Maryland leads 56-12.
Maryland vs. UNC-Boston College winner, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Wake Forest in 2013-14 season opener.