by Mike Potter
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State needs some victories to keep alive a shot at a winning season in women's basketball.
Today, the Wolfpack will have plenty of support in that quest.
The ESPN2 contest against Miami is NCSU's annual "Hoops 4 Hope" game, with the Wolfpack and most of the fans in the house wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness and research and of course in memory of the late coach Kay Yow.
It's a battle for position in the ACC, as State (13-11, 3-6 ACC) and Miami (16-8, 3-6) are tied for ninth place.
State is pretty much dressed in pink from head to toe. Miami, wearing its normal home whites for the road game, is wearing pink shoes and socks with plenty of pink headbands. And 6,452 look on as the Wolfpack gets an emotional 66-64 victory.
Miami leads 35-29 at halftime despite 10 points from Amber White. The Hurricanes shoot 43.8 percent in the first half to State's 31.0.
At halftime are raised new three banners in honor of Yow, including a large portrait of her in the middle with her Hall of Fame inductions and key victories saluted on the others.
The second half is a very, very noisy nail-biter. Miami leads by eight at 48-40 following a Charmaine Clark layup with 13:45 left. But State rallies to lead 54-50 on Bonae Holston's jumper at 10:48.
That's the last time anyone has more than a one-possession advantage.
Miami gets what turns out to be its final points with 3:15 to go on a Shenise Johnson jumper to make it 64-62.
Nikitta Gartrell answers with a jumper to tie it at 1:55, and 50 seconds later Marissa Kastanek follows a Holston shot for the game's final points.
White, who plays an exquisite game, makes her only significant mistake when she trips and loses the ball with 26 seconds left. But the Hurricanes don't make her team pay, as Clark misses a short shot in the closing seconds and White rebounds going toward her own basket.
Kastanek leads State with 16 points and eight rebounds, followed by Holston with 14 points and seven rebounds and White with 13 points, seven boards and seven assists. Lucy Ellison has 11 rebounds to go with her five points.
Johnson paces Miami with 23 points, followed by Shanel Williams with 13 points.
State shoots 41.1 percent to Miami's 39.7 and wins the rebound battle 44-37. The Wolfpack commits 18 turnovers to the Hurricanes' 17.
The game raises $50,052 for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund.
They said it ...
N.C. State coach Kellie Harper: "(Miami was) obviously shooting the heck out of the ball. They were getting good looks, and even the times that they took some tough shots they were making them. We weren't scoring at the pace they were scoring (early). ... The look in our players' eyes the last eight seconds was exactly what you want to see as a coach. I thought our kids did a nice job of communicating and taking anything easy away. ... We talked about this game being bigger than our team, and this is more than just a basketball game. But at the same time, we had to be focused on the task at hand, and as a coach I think it helped me because I was trying to be more focused on Miami than anything else."
White: "Knowing that last year was the last time Coach Yow was a part of (the Hoops 4 Hope game) physically (and White was injured and unable to play) definitely motivated me. I thought about it all week. It definitely provided additional motivation for me. I don't know if this tops the UNC game my freshman year when they stormed the court, but this game is definitely up there."
Kastanek: "The crowd was awesome. Coach Kellie always tells us 'Get them excited!' so I was really trying, and it worked and they were really loud. ... (On the last shot) Amber had been on me the whole game to go rebound because I kept forgetting and kept forgetting and kept forgetting, and I heard the bench Coach (Richard) Barron was yelling, like 'Go rebound!' so I just did what I had to do. I was trying to get in position in case it did bounce off, so I just got it and got it in."
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack is one regular-season win from almost certainly clinching a post-season spot. And that the Hurricanes need to put together some wins to get to wear those white jerseys in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Kastanek's follow shot for the winning points.
NCSU: Won 1.
Miami: Lost 2.
Miami at Clemson, Thursday, 7 p.m.
NCSU vs. Boston College, Friday, 6:30 p.m.