by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM It's the opening session of the 33rd ACC Women's Basketball Tournament, and already the balance in the conference is obvious.
Miami (17-12) is the No. 12 seed in the 12-team event as it takes the floor against No. 5 seed Wake Forest (17-12), and the Hurricanes under Duke alumna Katie Meier may well be the best No. 12 seed team in the history of women's conference basketball tournaments.
As always, the 11 a.m. games are games marketed heavily to area school children, and the arena is going to be full of elementary school kids. Conventional wisdom would have that giving the Deacons a home-court advantage of sorts; back in the day the Wake men's team once played an entire home schedule in this building.
Mike Petersen's Deacons, who may yet earn an NCAA bid without having to cut the nets on Sunday, won the only regular-season meeting 67-64 on Jan. 17 at Joel Coliseum.
This one goes right to the buzzer and beyond, with the Deacons surviving 66-65 in overtime.
Wake's freshman center and South Florida native Sandra Garcia (pictured) scores the first six points of the game before the Hurricanes clamp down defensively, and Miami leads 30-25 at the break.
The Hurricanes score the first six points of the second half, taking the largest lead of the game at 36-25 with 17:33 left in regulation.
But the Deacons come back with a run, scoring 11 straight in one stretch to lead 40-38 on a Courteney Morris 3-pointer with 12:34 to go.
Wake appears to take control for a while, leading 52-46 on a Garcia layup with 4:41 to go. But the Hurricanes keep plugging, and finally tie the score on a Shenise Johnson layup with 17 seconds left. Secily Ray misses for Wake in the closing seconds and we'll play five more minutes.
Miami's only lead of overtime is on Riquna Williams' layup 30 seconds in, but the Deacons never threaten to pull away.
Brittany Waters converts a three-point play with 1:00 showing in the OT for a 66-63 Wake lead.
Miami cuts it to 66-65 13 seconds later on a Williams jumper.
Having to beat the shot clock the Deacons' Tiffany Roulhac misses with 17 seconds left in OT.
Johnson misses Miami's last shot with :02 left and Camille Collier rebounds, and the Deacons survive and advance.
Waters leads Wake with 21 points followed by Garcia, who has 18 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out with 3:0 left in the OT. Ray plays all 45 minutes and finishes with 15 points.
Williams leads Miami with 28 points followed by Johnson with 15.
The Deacons shoot 40.6 percent to Miami's 36.4 and wins the rebound battle 45-37, but commits 22 turnovers to the Hurricanes' 16.
They said it:
Wake coach Mike Petersen: "I heard Katie's teleconference before the tournament and she made a really good point: 'We don't consider ourselves the 12th seed.' And she made a really good point. They're the 12th seed and they beat Florida State and (FSU) tied for first. It's a mosh pit. If you're not ready to play regardless of who you're playing you'll get beat, period. These teams were ready to play and I think it speaks to the depth of the conference. We just happened to hang around a little bit longer than they did today - we made one more play."
Miami coach Katie Meier: "It's a tough loss, but it's not a loss we'll hang our heads over by any stretch of the imagination. ... It's been tough, no matter how many overtime losses and last-second plays in the conference, and we'll continue to build. I like at the end of the game I have two sophomores and two freshmen out there with a senior and they're battling out there to win."
Garcia: "We executed on defense and we had energy and we wanted to fight back and win and stay together. It was a good experience. It was loud (with the school children) but it didn't bother me. I liked it."
Ray: "I guess you stay together and you don't let the score get to you, and we just try to fight to the end and win the game."
What does it all mean?
That the Deacons may, repeat may, have moved a step closer to an NCAA invitation. And that Miami will be in the WNIT or the WBI if the school chooses to participate.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Waters' three-point play in overtime.
Wake leads 6-3.
Wake: Won 1.
Miami: Lost 1.
Wake Forest vs. Georgia Tech, Friday, 11 a.m.